WhatsApp among worst-rated companies in privacy study

WhatsApp, Web app, Messaging

Concerned about privacy? Then it might be time to abandon WhatsApp.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has published its annual Who Has Your Back?' scorecard, a report which rates 24 major software and telecoms firms for their data privacy protection capabilities.

Free messaging service WhatsApp was rated just one star out of five by the EFF, with its opposition to built-in back-doors being the app's only redeeming privacy advantage.

Despite having a full year to prepare for its first appearance in the report, the EFF said that Whatsapp has "adopted none of the best practices" that the organisation highlighted.

Interestingly, however, parent company Facebook, which acquired the service earlier last year, fared much better with a four out of five rating, let down only by its refusal to reveal government content removal requests.

The EFF scores companies based on five categories, including whether they follow industry-accepted best practices, their transparency over government data demands, publication of data-retention policies, and their disclosure of details regarding government content removal requests.

Awarding a point for each, the fifth category this year was whether firms publicly and officially oppose government back-doors into their software, or other "deliberate security weaknesses".

Apple was among nine companies to receive a full five stars in the report, along with Wordpress, Dropbox, Yahoo, Adobe, CREDO, Sonic, Wickr and Wikimedia.

Overall, the EFF said it was pleased with the level of improvement across the industry since last year's report, saying that it believes the advancements in the small sample of companies is "emblematic of a broader shift".

It added: "We are pleased to see major tech companies competing on privacy and user rights. Perhaps invigorated by the ongoing debates around government surveillance and in response to growing public attention around these issues, more and more companies are voluntarily speaking out about government data requests and giving users tools to fight back."

Adam Shepherd

Adam Shepherd has been a technology journalist since 2015, covering everything from cloud storage and security, to smartphones and servers. Over the course of his career, he’s seen the spread of 5G, the growing ubiquity of wireless devices, and the start of the connected revolution. He’s also been to more trade shows and technology conferences than he cares to count.

Adam is an avid follower of the latest hardware innovations, and he is never happier than when tinkering with complex network configurations, or exploring a new Linux distro. He was also previously a co-host on the ITPro Podcast, where he was often found ranting about his love of strange gadgets, his disdain for Windows Mobile, and everything in between.

You can find Adam tweeting about enterprise technology (or more often bad jokes) @AdamShepherUK.