Download the complete Who Has Your Back? 2014: Protecting Your Data From Government Requests report as a PDF.
We entrust our most sensitive, private, and important information to technology companies like Google, Facebook, and Verizon. Collectively, these companies are privy to the conversations, photos, social connections, and location data of almost everyone online. The choices these companies make affect the privacy of every one of their users. So which companies stand with their users, embracing transparency around government data requests? Which companies have resisted improper government demands by fighting for user privacy in the courts and on Capitol Hill? In short, which companies have your back?
These questions are even more important in the wake of the past year’s revelations about mass surveillance, which showcase how the United States government has been taking advantage of the rich trove of data we entrust to technology companies to engage in surveillance of millions of innocent people in the US and around the world. Internal NSA documents and public statements by government officials confirm that major telecommunications companies are an integral part of these programs. We are also faced with unanswered questions, conflicting statements, and troubling leaked documents which raise real questions about the government’s ability to access to the information we entrust to social networking sites and webmail providers.
The legal landscape is unsettled. The Electronic Frontier Foundation and other organizations have filed constitutional challenges to mass surveillance programs. Both Congress and President Obama are negotiating legislative reform that could curtail or even end bulk surveillance programs, while other Congressional proposals would instead enshrine them into law. In multiple recent public opinion polls, the American people attest that they believe government surveillance has gone too far.
In the face of unbounded surveillance, users of technology need to know which companies are willing to take a stand for the privacy of their users.
In this fourth-annual report, EFF examines the publicly-available policies of major Internet companies—including Internet service providers, email providers, mobile communications tools, telecommunications companies, cloud storage providers, location-based services, blogging platforms, and social networking sites—to assess whether they publicly commit to standing with users when the government seeks access to user data. The purpose of this report is to allow users to make informed decisions about the companies with whom they do business. It is also designed to incentivize companies to adopt best practices, be transparent about how data flows to the government, and to take a stand for their users’ privacy in Congress and in the courts whenever it is possible to do so.