Google, Microsoft, Apple get perfect scores on user privacy report

Electronic Frontier Foundation gauges companies on protection

Google and Microsoft look to have turned over a new leaf when it comes to protecting users' data, according to a report released Thursday by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Although criticized at times for supposedly not being good stewards of users' data, Google and Microsoft both scored a perfect six stars on the foundation's fourth-annual "Who Has Your Back" report, which gauges how hard companies fight to protect users' privacy from government data requests. Also improving their ranking this year and scoring six stars were  Apple, Credo Mobile, Dropbox, Facebook, and Yahoo. Last year, only Sonic.net and Twitter received six stars, as they did again this year.

The six categories used to judge the companies were the following: requires a warrant for content, tells users about government data requests, publishes transparency reports, publishes law enforcement guidelines, fights for users' privacy rights in courts, and fights for users' privacy rights in Congress.

"The sunlight brought about by a year's worth of Snowden leaks appears to have prompted dozens of companies to improve their policies when it comes to giving user data to the government," said EFF Activism Director Rainey Reitman in a statement. "Our report charts objectively verifiable categories of how tech companies react when the government seeks user data, so users can make informed decisions about which companies they should trust with their information."

Not faring so well in EFF's report were photo-messaging application Snapchat (one star), Amazon.com (two stars), Adobe (three stars), Comcast (three stars), and Foursquare (three stars). EFF said several other vendors, including LinkedIn, Pinterest, SpiderOak, Tumblr, Wickr, and Wordpress, only missed out on getting six stars because they did not have to deal with public court battles on behalf of users.

The report examines privacy policies, terms of service, public statements, and courtroom track records of 26 major technology companies, including ISPs, email providers, social networking sites, and mobile services. The majority of companies surveyed made a formal commitment to inform users when data was sought, EFF said. The donor-supported organization has a mission to defend civil liberties in the digital world.

This story, "Google, Microsoft, Apple get perfect scores on user privacy report," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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