EFF anoints Twitter with data privacy crown, slams Apple and MySpace

How safe are your favourite websites? The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) evaluated 18 major Internet companies for privacy and transparency, and popular microblogging site Twitter was one of the firms that came out on top.

Each company was judged on six criteria. Specifically, the EFF evaluated whether the firms: require a warrant before handing over user content; tell users about government data requests; publish transparency reports; publish law enforcement guidelines; and fight for users' privacy in courts.

Twitter landed on top, earning a star in all six categories.

"We are extremely pleased to recognise the outstanding commitment each of these companies has made to public transparency around government access to user data," the EFF said.

The EFF pointed to Twitter's reluctance to hand over user data to law enforcement, most notably in the case of Occupy Wall Street protester Malcolm Harris and this year's battle with French authorities.

Meanwhile, Sonic.net was also singled out for distinction by the foundation for challenging a government demand in the WikiLeaks investigation.

"Online service providers are the gatekeepers for consumer privacy, and protecting our customers is a top priority at Sonic.net," the company said in a statement.

On the flip side, MySpace landed with a thud, garnering zero stars — the same score the company earned in the 2012 and 2011 EFF reports. US telecoms giant AT&T faced a similarly low ranking, with only one star for its efforts to fight for users' privacy in Congress.

"We remain disappointed by the overall poor showing of ISPs like AT&T and Verizon in our best practice categories," EFF said.

In a statement, MySpace attorney Drew Bordages said that the study "contains significant errors and omissions as it represents and scores MySpace's user data practices. We are in contact with the EFF to correct these errors and republish the report," he said, but didn't specify which errors it wishes to fix.

New to this year's list are popular blogging platforms Tumblr and WordPress, both of which made a strong showing in terms of publishing details about law enforcement demands, requiring a warrant for content, and standing up for users in Congress. WordPress also snagged a fourth star for promising to inform users about government access requests.

Other firms with notable scores include Dropbox, Google, LinkedIn, and Spideroak (all with five stars), as well as Foursquare and Microsoft (four stars). Also on the list: Apple (one star), Comcast (two stars), Facebook (three stars), and Yahoo (one star).

"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 EFF said. "While there remains room for improvement in areas such as 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.