Seven years ago, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) published a “Who Has Your Back” report, to evaluate major tech companies’ commitments to protecting users when the government seeks private data. The report has since turned into an annual tradition, and this year, the EFF is giving Microsoft four out of five stars, citing “industry best practices” as one of the primary reasons.
It is worth noting that the stars are issued to companies for different categories: industry best practices, telling users about data requests, not selling out users, standing up to NSL gag orders, and pushing for reformation of Section 702.
At the forefront of the four-star decision is the fact that Microsoft publishes an annual transparency report, law enforcement guidelines, and requires a warrant to be provided before giving user content to law enforcement. Another important factor in the decision is Microsoft tells users about government data requests, with delayed notice when a government gag order expires.
The EFF also finds that Microsoft’s policies protect users from being “Sold out” since it specifically prohibits the company from sharing data used for surveillance. This is mainly due to the fact that Microsoft’s public policies reads: “We do not design tools to enable voluntary surveillance of our users. If we ever provide third parties with access to data about our customers, we expect those third parties to handle that data appropriately.”
Closing factors in the four-star rating include the fact that Microsoft currently does not have a policy of requesting a judicial review of National Security Letters received by the US Government. The full report also points to the fact that Microsoft is calling for reforms of Section 702, which would significantly cut down on the surveillance of innocent American civilians.
Microsoft is not the only company which received four stars in this year’s “Who Has Your Back” report. Apple also received four stars, as well as Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Slack, and Yahoo. Amazon and WhatsApp only received two stars. The telecommunications companies, Verizon, T-Mobile, Comcast, were rated worst, and only received one star.