Transparency reports have become a new standard in the tech industry, according to an Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) report released Thursday. The fourth annual “Who Has Your Back” report shows that 20 out of 26 top technology companies published transparency reports revealing information about government requests for user data.
Only 7 of the companies published transparency reports last year, and while companies are legally barred from disclosing information about certain types of requests such as National Security Letters, the EFF praises the practice for providing “a small but vital level of public transparency.”
The EFF worked with data analysis company Silk to produce a tool for exploring corporate transparency reports, which breaks down data requests by company, country and compliance. The marked increase in data available provides a detailed picture of data requests globally.
“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. “Our report charts objectively verifiable categories of how tech companies react when the government seeks user data, so users can make informed decisions about which companies they should trust with their information.”
Nine of the companies in the report received the highest possible score of six stars, and 6 more received 5 out of 6 and were not eligible for the sixth as they did not have to go to court on behalf of users.
The top scoring companies are Apple, CREDO Mobile, Dropbox, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and the two companies which received top marks last year, Sonic and Twitter. The companies a court challenge away are LinkedIn, Pinterest, SpiderOak, Tumblr, Wickr and WordPress.
Snapchat, AT&T and Comcast were singled out for their poor protection of user data as they handed over requested information to government agencies without warrants.
The event took place shortly after President Obama placed limitations on government use of collected data, in measures characterized as disappointing by the EFF.