The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a group that supports civil liberties in the electronic world, rated 26 companies
based on how they handle user information when faced with government requests and found that while most Silicon Valley companies did well, a few weren't protecting user information.
The EFF rated several companies with perfect scores including Apple, Dropbox, Facebook, Google, Twitter and Yahoo, according to the electronic rights group. The report, called "Who Has Your Back?" ranks each companies based on the following criteria:
1. Require a warrant for content of communications. Companies must require the government to obtain a warrant from a "neutral magistrate" and have probable cause before giving out user information.
2. Tell users about government data requests. Digital companies must disclose to users when the government is asking to see their information unless prohibited by law. The EFF requests that users be notified before information is turned over so users can fight the demand in court.
3. Publish transparency reports. Companies get a star if they publish data about government requests and when they hand over the information.
4. Publish law enforcement guidelines. If companies make their policies public or publish guidelines for law enforcement, they get a start
5. Fight for users’ privacy rights in courts. Companies must show they have resisted overreaching government demands in court.
6. Publicly oppose mass surveillance. Internet companies are scored on whether or not they publicly oppose "mass surveillance."
The EFF said it saw big changes in the tech industry this year, and for the first time since it began compiling the report in 2011, each company succeeded in getting a star in at least one category. In 2011, Comcast, Myspace, Skype and Verizon received no stars.
Nine companies earned stars in all categories: Apple, CREDO Mobile, Dropbox, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Sonic, Twitter and Yahoo. Others, such as LinkedIn, Pinterest and Tumblr, scored stars except in fighting for users privacy rights in court. One company, the startup messaging service Snapchat, was highlighted as being particularly bad at protecting user data. "Given the large number of users and nonusers whose photos end up on Snapchat, Snapchat should publicly commit to requiring a warrant before turning over the content of its users’ communications to law enforcement," the EFF wrote in its executive summary.
Apple seemed to have improved the most. In 2013, Apple had only one start and now it earns all six.
It's likely the very public outcry over the National Security Administration searching through data caused many Internet companies to rethink their policies about handing over data to the government. The upside is that more user data is safer than before.