Big Telcoms are not protecting privacy well, according to the most recent survey released by a major consumer watchdog organization.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) says Comcast, Verizon, T-Mobile & AT&T scored the lowest – again – in it’s annual Who Has Your Back survey of internet companies’ efforts to protect the privacy of individual internet users.
Those same companies are in a pitched battle to roll back the Net Neutrality rules in the U.S. which guarantee a fair and open internet. Today – July 12 – is the day to show your support for fair use internet and defend the internet in the U.S. as a public utility which also guards users’ privacy.
Privacy rights and fair internet use in inextricably linked in this 21st Century and the EFF survey suggests the companies who most want to control the internet in the U.S. are also the companies which do little to protect the privacy of users.
“While they have adopted a number of industry best practices, like publishing transparency reports and requiring a warrant for content, they 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 (government requests for users’ private information),” said EFF.
“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,” said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Nate Cardozo. “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.”
The EFF report tries to examine how the major internet companies – not solely the Big Telcom companies – protect user privacy while also being transparent with privacy policies and practices.
“The data stored on our mobile phones, laptops, and especially our online services can, when aggregated, paint a detailed picture of our lives—where we go, who we see, what we say, our political affiliations, our religion, and more,” said EFF.
The organization evaluated 26 major internet companies and awarded stars in five categories.
“We also awarded stars to companies that exercise their right to make the government initiate judicial review of gag orders that prohibit them from publicly disclosing they have received a National Security Letter (NSL). NSLs—secret FBI demands for user information issued with no oversight from any court—permit the FBI to unilaterally gag recipients, a power EFF believes is unconstitutional,” EFF explained. “Facebook, Google, and Microsoft have failed to promise to step up and exercise the right to have the government put NSL gag orders before a court.”
“Each has a track record of defending user privacy against government overreach and improved on their practices to meet the more stringent standards in this year’s Who Has Your Back,” said EFF.
Two companies, Amazon and Facebook’s WhatsApp, earned less-than-perfect scores.
“EFF’s survey showed that while both companies have done significant work to defend user privacy—EFF especially lauds WhatsApp’s move to adopt end-to-end encryption by default for its billion users around the world—their policies still lag behind,” said the organization. “Online retail giant Amazon has been rated number one in customer service, yet it hasn’t made the public commitments to stand behind its users’ digital privacy that the rest of the industry has.”