For the benefit of those who are not receiving updates through email about the transparency reports published by major tech companies regularly, governments from across the world send out requests to such giants as Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Yahoo to remove data from their services.
Google, for one, have been disclosing the number of requests the company receives from governments all over the world every six months, of course without trespassing into certain provisional restrictions.
Of those companies receiving government requests, there are those that have maintained a level of transparency, which serves as an indicator of how they protect user data, and there those that have lax measures in place to do the same.
Among those companies recently ranked by the Electronic Frontier Foundation for trustworthiness, Apple, Dropbox, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo took the lead spots with six stars, the highest rank. AT&T, Snapchat and Amazon, meanwhile, flunked with not more than two stars. This means those three companies do not bother to ask for warrant when they would receive user data requests from governments and that they have scarce transparency publications.
Users have been increasingly anxious over how Internet companies handle their data following the revelation of former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden on government surveillance programs that sniff every byte of your information stored online. Speaking of data privacy, the EFF report only reviewed publicly available records.
There were six benchmarks for ranking the trustworthiness of those companies. First, whether they would require court warrant for data requests, notify users when they receive such requests, push out transparency reports, provide law enforcement guidelines, defend user data privacy at all costs and combat surveillance programs such as that of the NSA.
Governments request Internet firms to delete or review published data for reasons that they deem are material to their national security posture. It can be for issues of reputation or violations of national policies or prohibition of hate speech. Various countries have different reasons.
Nonetheless, Snapchat, for example, ranked one of the least trustworthy companies, earning only one star for failing to regularly publish law enforcement guidelines.
Researchers claim that governments are not doing with escalated speed their task of helping to protect user privacy amid a growing technology industry, and thus more people going online. On the other hand, these governments are party to gaining access to user information without certain legal basis.
Internet companies have shortcomings as well, for they often provide the data to governments in silver platter.