Who Has Your Back?
The fifth annual “Who Has Your Back?” report has been published by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, highlighting the companies that do the best and worst jobs of resisting government demands for users’ data and keeping users informed of such demands. Here's the scoop...
The 2015 "Who Has Your Back?" Report
Yesterday I published an article exploring the question of whether the NSA has hacked into your antivirus software. It was also critical of antivirus vendors, for sloppy coding practices that actually make you MORE vulnerable to online attackers. Is anyone watching the watchers?
The EFF's report is important because the U.S. Congress does not have your back. Our dully (sic) elected representatives are firmly in bed with the NSA, FBI, and other law enforcement agencies that want to pry into every aspect of your digital life. Before you write off that statement as just one man's jaded opinion, consider these FACTS.
• Congress has failed to update the 1986 Electronics Communications Privacy Act to, among things, erase the arbitrary distinction between email stored on a server for more than 6 months and email stored for less than 6 months. The former is considered “abandoned” under the ECA, and like the trash you put out at the curb it can be searched without a warrant.
• Congress has “reformed” the NSA’s mammoth collection of Americans’ phone call metadata by making the NSA’s job EASIER. Cellular carriers are now required to archive all that data, sparing the NSA the trouble and expense. Carriers must produce data about specific users upon demand.
• Lawmakers have come right to the brink of passing legislation that would require software developers and online services to provide backdoors into their programs and services for law enforcement to snoop on users. It would also effectively ban companies’ efforts to “know nothing” about users’ data so that they can’t be compelled to reveal it to the government.
Who Can You Trust?
So if anyone’s going to protect your privacy, it will have to be the companies with which you do business. The EFF’s report puts pressure on companies to do so by making their policies and practices public and encouraging consumers to choose their suppliers accordingly.
The EFF’s efforts seem to have worked. Over the past four years, we have seen tech giants become more transparent in their reporting of government requests for user data (See Google’s report, for example.) Many began requiring a search warrant before handing over users’ data.
So far, no tech giant has fought a search warrant to the death to protect a user’s privacy, as the Tattered Cover bookstore did in 2000. In that case, local cops got a search warrant for the purchase records of a customer suspected of manufacturing illegal drugs. Store owner Joyce Meskis fought that warrant all the way to the Colorado Supreme Court, and won a landmark victory for customers’ privacy rights. (The book the suspect purchased turned out to be about Japanese calligraphy, not drugs.)
Most companies have already adopted policies that meet the criteria of the original EFF report. But the bar has been raised, according to the EFF’s notes in this year’s 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.
Winners and Losers
Detailed explanations of the criteria the EFF used this year to rate companies is on the EFF Web site. The ratings of all the companies reviewed by the EFF are here. For the goriest details, download this PDF of the entire report.
Nine companies earned perfect scores on the EFF’s rating system: Adobe, Apple, CREDO Wireless, Dropbox, Sonic.com, the Wickr self-destructing message service, Wikimedia, Wordpress and Yahoo.
WhatsApp earned just one star out of a possible five, for opposing backdoors. AT&T earned just one star for following long-established best practices. Verizon earned just two stars. Neither of these major telecom companies has publicly opposed efforts to require backdoors into their networks for law enforcement purposes.
The EFF report sheds light on the privacy protection policies of companies you may do business with. It’s up to you and other users to keep pressure on the slackers to beef up their defenses of your privacy. Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 26 Jun 2015
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Who Has Your Back? (Posted: 26 Jun 2015)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved