Feeds

EFF report identifies which internet firms 'have your back' on data

Twitter is tops, but big-name fails from Verizon, Apple, and others

Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL

The annual Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) report on data protection among online firms has shown lax privacy standards among some of the biggest names in the business when the government comes knocking at the door.

A total of 18 companies were assessed on their privacy policies and T&Cs, stated procedures for handling government data-mining expedition requests, and their overall level of transparency. These factors were then ranked alongside what they'd actually done in the real world when asked by the authorities, plus any lobbying efforts undertaken on the issues in Congress.

The report's dunces were Verizon and MySpace, with both companies getting zero out of a possible six gold stars (a curiously child-like scoring system, in this hack's opinion), with Apple, AT&T, Comcast and Yahoo! only scraping a single star apiece. Amazon and Comcast managed two stars each.

"Apple and AT&T are members of the Digital Due Process coalition, but don't observe any of the other best practices we're measuring. And this year, as in past years, MySpace and Verizon earned no stars in our report. We remain disappointed by the overall poor showing of ISPs like AT&T and Verizon in our best practice categories," the EFF states.

The star pupils, with the full six gold stars (and presumably a pat on the head from teacher) were Twitter and West Coast ISP Sonic.net. Twitter has defended the rights of users ranging from Occupy protestors to French racists, and Sonic.net makes a point of minimizing data retention times to a legally-required bare minimum and not cooperating with IP-hunting legal shysters.

Google and Microsoft got praise for raising awareness of National Security Letters (NSLs) – government-issued investigatory orders with a tight gagging clause that can be enforced without judicial oversight. The NSL orders have now been ruled unconstitutional by a US court, though that decision is pending appeal.

But Google also got a demotion for a change in its official policy on informing users if they are under investigation. This year, the Chocolate Factory changed its T&Cs on user notification to promising to tell them "when appropriate," which the EFF considers so nebulous as to allow a whole host of shenanigans.

But Google gets praise for pioneering the practice of transparency reports, a practice adopted last year by Dropbox, LinkedIn, Sonic.net, SpiderOak, and Twitter, and more recently Microsoft. Such reports are fast becoming key to informing users on privacy practices, but there are still plenty of companies managing petabytes of data that shun them, including Amazon, Apple, AT&T, and Verizon.

"Readers of this year’s annual privacy and transparency report should be heartened, as we are, by the improvements major online service providers made over the last year," the report concludes.

"While there remains room for improvement in areas such as the policies of location service providers and cellphone providers like AT&T and Verizon, certain practices – like publishing law enforcement guidelines and regular transparency reports – are becoming standard industry practice for internet companies." ®

Website security in corporate America

More from The Register

next story
Hey, Scots. Microsoft's Bing thinks you'll vote NO to independence
World's top Google-finding website calls it for the UK
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
Apple CEO Tim Cook: TV is TERRIBLE and stuck in the 1970s
The iKing thinks telly is far too fiddly and ugly – basically, iTunes
Israeli spies rebel over mass-snooping on innocent Palestinians
'Disciplinary treatment will be sharp and clear' vow spy-chiefs
Huawei ditches new Windows Phone mobe plans, blames poor sales
Giganto mobe firm slams door shut on Microsoft. OH DEAR
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Found inside ISIS terror chap's laptop: CELINE DION tunes
REPORT: Stash of terrorist material found in Syria Dell box
OECD lashes out at tax avoiding globocorps' location-flipping antics
You hear that, Amazon, Google, Microsoft et al?
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.