updated 12:41 am EDT, Fri May 16, 2014
Facebook, Dropbox, Microsoft, Yahoo among others also meet high criteria
In its latest report on tech companies and their efforts to be transparent on user privacy and the US government, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has given Apple its highest rating, six out of six, for the first time. A total of nine tech companies achieved the top score, but Apple had previously been given just one star each year since 2011. The revised rating is a result of Apple's more public effort to protect user privacy.
The criteria for the awards, set by the EFF, includes requiring warrants before the company will give up user content; informing the user about data requests (albeit after the fact); publishing guidelines to limit and clarify what law enforcement can get and under what circumstances, and "fighting for user rights" in both court and Congress. Apple recently published its own law enforcement guidelines, which clarified what could be obtained with and without a warrant.
The company has also advocated for less government monitoring of Internet information and the mass collection of personal data gathered by the National Security Agency (in programs revealed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden). It has flatly and strongly denied any collaboration with the agency and has advocated for permission for more disclosure of how many data requests it receives.
Other companies that have met the criteria include Facebook, Credo Mobile, Twitter, Microsoft, Google, Dropbox, Sonic.net and Yahoo alongside Apple. The report, entitled "Who Has Your Back," notes that only nine of the many tech companies received the full six stars. The EFF specifically quotes from Apple's 2014 transparency report for an example of a standard companies should uphold on the aspect of fighting for user rights in court: "If there is any question about the legitimacy or scope of the court order, we challenge it and have done so in the past year."
Apple has further pledged to report law enforcement to inform users immediately when it gets requests for data unless forbidden by a court order. The EFF, which fights legal battles over Internet issues and naturally makes user privacy a priority, noted that "Apple shows remarkable improvement in its commitments to transparency and privacy."