A recent report found 65 percent of American adults don’t know that a “privacy policy” on a website doesn’t prohibit the site from sharing user’s personal browsing information. Each policy varies by the site itself, but you probably don’t read those anyway. To help you have an understanding of trustworthy sites, The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) released their annual report on privacy ratings among some online companies.

The Categories
The EFF spent five years analyzing some of the most popular tech companies in several categories to determine how they protect user privacy. The companies range from social media powerhouses, popular phone apps, and search engines. These are the categories the EFF used to create these rankings.

Industry-accepted best practices – Does the company hand over private information without a warrant or publish a transparency report on how often they deal with the government about private user info?
•Tells user about government information requests – Do they inform users of government requests for their information in a timely and legal manner?
•Publicly disclose the company’s data retention policies – How long do they retain users’ private data in a form accessible to law enforcement, but not the user?
•Disclose the number of times governments seek the removal of user content or accounts and how often the company complies – How often does the company comply with government demands to suspend or remove user accounts?
•Pro-user public policies: opposing backdoors – How well do they communicate their position on privacy policies to the public?

Companies You Can Trust
Yahoo! scored top nods with a five-star rating across the board, thanks to what EFF describes as a strong stance in favor of user rights, privacy, and transparency. This is the second year in a row the search engine received a perfect rating.

Computing programs designed to help aid in website building and creative design also fared well in the tests, with Adobe and WordPress both receiving perfect scores. Both companies freely share information regarding their data retention policies, while also requiring a warrant before giving up users’ information.

Apple also performed well in EFF’s report, with another stellar showing across each category, while Facebook excelled in every area but one. The social media giant failed to provide adequate and timely disclosures on government content removal of users’ profiles. Twitter, Dropbox, and LinkedIn were also near the top of the pack in terms of safeguarding users’ data and privacy.

Companies That Didn’t Perform as Well
Microsoft and Google fell in the middle. Google lost two stars for failing to inform users of government data requests and not disclosing data retention policies. Microsoft lost points for failing to disclose both data retention policies and government content removal requests to users.

Meanwhile, WhatsApp scored the worst among its peers, failing in all categories except one. The company opposes back doors, but lacks in its decision to allow government to intrude on privacy and forego informing users about its policies and requests. It’s somewhat surprising considering Facebook, which received mostly good scores across the board, now owns the company.

While there is certainly room to improve, it seems many of the top companies are fighting to protect user privacy. Before signing up for a new tech service online or buying a product from one of these companies, consider reading their privacy report so you know what will happen to your data.

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