Earlier this year, Twitter was subpoenaed for the account information of an Occupy Wall Street protester. It has resisted, but would other online companies do the same? If you break the law, in many cases, the government is going to turn to the digital services you frequent — Facebook, email, your phone carrier — to find evidence. But will those companies go to bat for you? The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has put together a comprehensive report detailing how and if, big web companies defend you when the government calls.
They analysed email providers, social networks, and cloud computing firms to see whether or not they yield to Washington or stand for the public. From the EFF:
We looked at their terms of service, privacy policies, and published law enforcement guides, if any. We also examined their track record of fighting for user privacy in the courts and whether they're members of the Digital Due Process coalition, which works to improve outdated communications law.
Companies were evaluated based on four categories. The first is if they let users know when the government is after their data. The next is transparency when they do, in fact, hand data over. To earn full marks, companies must both publish stats on how often they give info out, as well as publicise the policies they have on this practice. Thirdly, they checked whether or not companies are fighting for user privacy in courts. To be recognised here, companies have to offer a record of the times they've stood up against government demands. Finally, they checked if companies were lobbying for user privacy in the US Congress.
The only company to get the full four stars was Sonic.net, an ISP in California. However, the EFF found that, across the board, companies have our backs, and there has been improvement since last year's report. Then again, it wouldn't hurt to see a few more perfect scores. [EFF]