Who Has Your Back? 2015: Protecting Your Data From Government Requests

Source: Nate Cardozo, Kurt Opsahl, Rainey Reitman, Electronic Frontier Foundation, June 17, 2015

The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Fifth Annual Report on Online Service Providers’ Privacy and Transparency Practices Regarding Government Access to User Data

From the summary:
We live digital lives—from the videos shared on social networks, to location-aware apps on mobile phones, to log-in data for connecting to our email, to our stored documents, to our search history. The personal, the profound, and even the absurd are all transcribed into data packets, whizzing through the fiber-optic arteries of the network.

While our daily lives have upgraded to the 21st century, the law hasn’t kept pace. To date, the U.S. Congress hasn’t managed to update the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act to acknowledge that email stored more than 6 months deserves identical protections to email stored less than 6 months. Congress also dragged its feet on halting the NSA’s indiscriminate surveillance of online communications and has yet to enact the strong reforms we deserve. Congress is even on the precipice of making things far worse, considering proposals that would mandate government backdoors into the technology we rely on to digitally communicate.

In this climate, we increasingly look to technology companies themselves to have the strongest possible policies when it comes to protecting user rights. Which companies will stand by users, insisting on transparency and strong legal standards around government access to user data? And which companies make those policies public, letting the world—and their own users—judge their stances on standing up for privacy rights?…..

….The criteria we used to judge companies in 2011 were ambitious for the time, but they’ve been almost universally adopted in the years since then. Now, users should expect companies to far exceed the standards articulated in the original Who Has Your Back report. Users should look to companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon to be transparent about the types of content that is blocked or censored in response to government requests, as well as what deleted data is kept around in case government agents seek it in the future. We also look to these companies to take a principled stance against government-mandated backdoors.

In this, our fifth annual Who Has Your Back report, we took the main principles of the prior reports and rolled them into a single category: Industry-Accepted Best Practices. We’ve also refined our expectations around providing users notice and added new categories to highlight other important transparency and user rights issues….