Four major telecommunications companies—AT&T, Comcast, T-Mobile, and Verizon—are "falling short" on user privacy, according to a new report from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
"When it comes to adopting policies that prioritize user privacy over facilitating government data demands, the telecom industry for the most part has erred on the side of prioritizing government requests," the nonprofit digital rights group wrote in its seventh annual "Who Has Your Back" report, released Monday. The report rates companies on how they deal with government requests for user data.
EFF evaluated the public policies of 26 companies — everyone from Adobe to Yahoo and all the big names in between — and awarded credit in five categories. Stars were doled out to companies for: following industry-wide best practices around government data requests; being transparent about the requests they receive; promising not to sell out their users; standing up to National Security Letter gag orders; and supporting reforms to Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, a provision of law the EFF calls the "legal lynchpin for the NSA's mass internet surveillance."
On a positive note, every company the EFF evaluated "has adopted baseline industry best practices, such as publishing a transparency report and requiring a warrant before releasing user content to the government," the organization wrote. Nine companies earned stars in all five categories the EFF evaluated: Adobe, Credo, Dropbox, Lyft, Pinterest, Sonic, Uber, Wickr, and WordPress.
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On the other end of the spectrum, AT&T, Comcast, T-Mobile, and Verizon were the four lowest performing companies, earning just one star each. The EFF said these companies "still need to commit to informing users before disclosing their data to the government and creating a public policy of requesting judicial review of all NSLs."
Meanwhile, Amazon and Facebook-owned WhatsApp didn't score much better, earning just two stars each. The EFF praised WhatsApp's move to adopt end-to-end encryption by default and Amazon's customer service, but said both companies' privacy policies could use some work.
"The tech industry as a whole has moved toward providing its users with more transparency, but telecommunications companies—which serve as the pipeline for communications and Internet service for millions of Americans—are failing to publicly push back against government overreach," EFF Senior Staff Attorney Nate Cardozo said in a statement. "Both legacy telcos and the giants of Silicon Valley can and must do better. We expect companies to protect, not exploit, the data we have entrusted them with."
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