Digital Privacy Watchdog Calls Out Apple, AT&T, Verizon


The Electronic Frontier Foundation faulted Amazon for a lack of transparency into whether a warrant is required for user information or if users are informed when a request for data is granted to authorities. Two other cloud storage firms, SpiderOak and Dropbox, which are included in the report, received high marks for data privacy.

"Amazon holds huge quantities of information as part of its cloud computing services and retail operations, yet does not promise to inform users when their data is sought by the government, produce annual transparency reports, or publish a law enforcement guide," the organization noted in its report.

Comcast earned recognition for challenging an IRS subpoena on behalf of its users in 2003, but despite publishing law enforcement guidelines, the firm received no recognition for requiring a warrant. A review of the company's law enforcement handbook found a warrant generally required for access to user data, although email communication is treated differently. "The contents of email communications in storage for 180 days or less may only be produced in response to a state or federal warrant (unless it can be demonstrated that the email has been opened and is not being kept for purposes of backup protection)," according to the Comcast guidelines.

Microsoft and Twitter were each recognized for publishing transparency reports for the first time. Microsoft issued a law enforcement disclosure report on access to cloud data in March. The company said it received more than 11,000 U.S. law enforcement requests for information or content data of users of its products in 2012.

Twitter maintains a transparency Web page and published its first full report last year in which it said it received 679 requests from U.S. authorities in the first half of 2012, granting information on approximately 75 percent of the requests.