The report this week from the EFF, a nonprofit that focuses on digital rights, evaluated companies based on factors including their transparency to consumers about data requests and data retention, as well as their public positions on so-called back doors that grant government agencies access to customer data.
Apple, Adobe, Yahoo, Dropbox and Sonic.net were among those that scored highly. AT&T and WhatsApp, which earned the lowest marks, with one out of five stars, did not immediately have comments. Verizon Communications, which earned two stars in the report (down from four stars last year when the report had slightly different criteria) declined to comment.
The wide-ranging nature of government surveillance programs, many of which have been revealed by documents leaked by Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor, put pressure on tech companies to be more proactive about sharing their data collection and disclosure practices.
Most tech companies have published transparency reports detailing the number of requests they receive from government agencies, while also describing the types of data they collect and share. A number of big tech companies, including Facebook, Google, Apple and Microsoft, have urged President Barack Obama to reject policies aiming to weaken encryption technologies that protect Internet communications.
The broad conclusion from the EFF's report is that the tech sector's data practices are broadly improving. When the nonprofit group began publishing the report, called "Who has your back?" in 2011, virtually every company on the list had a low score.
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