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Who Has Your Back? 2013

April 30, 2013

When you use the Internet, you entrust your conversations, thoughts, experiences, locations, photos, and more to companies like Google, AT&T and Facebook. But what do these companies do when the government demands your private information? Do they stand with you? Do they let you know what’s going on?

In this annual report, the Electronic Frontier Foundation examined the policies of major Internet companies — including ISPs, email providers, 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 incentivize companies to be transparent about how data flows to the government and encourage them to take a stand for user privacy whenever it is possible to do so.

We compiled the information in this report by examining each company’s published terms of service, privacy policy, transparency report, and guidelines for law enforcement requests, if any. We also considered the company’s public record of fighting for user privacy in the courts and whether it is a member of the Digital Due Process coalition, which encourages Congress to improve outdated communications law. Finally, we contacted each company to explain our findings and gave them an opportunity to provide evidence of improved policies and practices. These categories are not the only ways that a company can stand up for users, of course, but they are important and publicly verifiable. In addition, not every company has faced a decision about whether to stand up for users in the courts, but we wanted to particularly commend those companies who have done so when given with the opportunity.

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