You may not be aware of this, but we are officially in the middle of Privacy Awareness Week, according to the FTC. To mark the occasion, the Electronic Frontier Foundation published its annual "Who Has Your Back?" report, which details how major Internet companies share data with the government.
Seeking a company that will stand up to Uncle Sam? Look at Twitter and Sonic.net. Worried about service providers who'll rat you out behind your back? Best avoid MySpace and Verizon, then.
[ Cash in on your IT stories! Send your IT tales to email@example.com. If we publish it, we'll keep you anonymous and send you a $50 American Express gift cheque. | For a humorous take on the tech industry's shenanigans, subscribe to Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter. | Get the latest insight on the tech news that matters from InfoWorld's Tech Watch blog. ]
Those are the broad conclusions of the 2013 report, which grades 18 ISPs, social networks, cloud storage vendors, and email providers on how they treat our data when Johnny Law comes pounding on the door.
Who can you trust with your data?
Only Twitter and Sonic.net earn perfect scores on the EFF's six criteria. Verizon and MySpace also got perfect scores -- they went 0 for 6. Everyone else landed somewhere in between.
The EFF scores largely rate how transparent these companies are about their data-sharing practices. They're less about how successful they are at keeping the feds out of our business. For example:
- Do these companies publish the guidelines they use to determine what kinds of user data they share with law enforcement and under what circumstances? Facebook and Foursquare are among the dozen who do; Apple, AT&T, and Yahoo do not.
- Do they require a warrant before handing over your data? Google, Dropbox, and nine other companies do; Comcast and Verizon are among those that don't.
- Do they fight for user privacy rights both in court and in congress? Only four companies meet both of those criteria: Amazon, Google, Sonic.net, and Twitter.
- Do they support Digital Due Process -- that is, reforming the Electronic Communications Privacy Act to require warrants for sensitive data? Comcast, Verizon, MySpace, and Yahoo are all MIA.