Amazon and Snapchat rank low for protecting user data from government

Amazon and Snapchat rank among the worst at protecting your data from government requests, according to a US privacy pressure group.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) publishes Who Has Your Back report annually, analysing the activity of companies ordered to hand sensitive user data in response to US government requests.

The report finds huge variation in the lengths technology companies will go to to protect their user user.

“Snapchat joins AT&T and Comcast in failing to require a warrant for government access to the content of communications,” said EFF attorney Nate Cardozo in a statement. “That means the government can obtain extraordinarily sensitive information about your activities and communications without convincing a judge that there is probable cause to collect it.”

Snapchat was awarded just one star out of six in the EFF’s report, solely for publishing guidelines for law enforcement requests. The ephemeral messaging service was recently reprimanded by the US Federal Trade Commission, over the collection of personal data and false claims that messages “disappear forever”.

A Snapchat spokeswoman said the company requires search warrants, but that the ephemerality of the service meant that there was often no data to release.

Amazon was awarded just two stars, however it requires a warrant to turn over user data, and was praised for repeatedly fighting in court to protect the privacy of its users’ book purchases.

Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.

‘The Snowden leaks appears to have prompted dozens of companies to improve’

EFF also found that the Snowden revelations over government surveillance of data has prompted a reaction from technology companies, which have increased their protection of user data.

“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.

Last year’s report awarded just two companies, Twitter and US internet service provider Sonic, with six stars covering warrant restrictions, transparency reports, and fighting for user privacy rights in courts and lobbying the US government.

Apple and Yahoo best improvers

In 2014, a total of nine companies won a six-star rating, including Apple, Dropbox, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo. Twitter was praised by EFF for fighting for the right to tell its users about government orders around the WikiLeaks investigation of 2010, according to EFF.

Both Apple and Yahoo were singled out as best improvers by the EFF, with Apple making “remarkable progress in every category” and Yahoo’s fight over user privacy with the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which was only revealed in July 2013 winning praise.

Facebook has also seen dramatic improvements, jumping from only one star in 2011 to six stars in 2014. Privacy of user data has become a focus for Facebook in recent years -a turnaround from founder Mark Zuckerberg’s stance that privacy on the internet was dead.

The report’s findings were based upon publicly available information on government data demands and transparency only, excluding national security requests covered by a gag order and any non-public anti-surveillance measures companies may use.

• Google faces a deluge of requests to erase personal data from its index over the ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling

Provided from: Guardian.