Which Companies Have Your Back?

June 17, 2013
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Earlier this month, the Electronic Frontier Foundation released its annual Data Privacy report which highlights how major communications companies guard your privacy (or violate it). While the list has some surprises, a lot of it is about what you’d expect: companies that understand how important their customers are fared best, while those who treat customers like a number fared worst.

Companies that work the hardest to fight for your privacy against government intrusion include:

Dropbox, Foursquare, Google, LinkedIn, Sonic.net, SpiderOak, Twitter, and WordPress.

Those that do next to nothing to protect and fight for your privacy are:

Apple, AT&T, Verizon, and Yahoo.

The entire chart can be viewed here.

This chart was widely distributed upon release and depending on which side a company fell, served as a nice PR bump or a PR disaster. In the cases of Verizon and AT&T, few were surprised to learn that they do not value their customers privacy – both companies have agreed to act as police for the RIAA and MPAA by notifying users when they upload or download certain copyrighted works. Additionally, both have provided GPS location data to law enforcement on hundreds of thousands of customers without requiring a warrant. Both firms happily provide access to all customer voice and data streams to the NSA. Additionally, AT&T has advised the FBI on how to fake security emergencies in order to obtain customer data., and most recently lobbied Congress to pass CISPA, a cyber-security bill that violates the constitution and exempts corporations from liability for disclosing your data. So, while both Verizon and AT&T’s reputations are in the dump, the release of the EFF’s list serves to reinforce their standing.

It makes little sense to adopt the anti-customer position when it comes to privacy. Customers take the guarding of their information very seriously, and when you fail to protect it, you have essentially said to your customer “You’re just a number, there is no real relationship here, and if you think we’re going to stick our head out for you, you’re crazy.” Doesn’t sound like a company I’d want to do business with.

Compare that mentality to Credo, quite possibly the exact opposite of carriers like AT&T and Verizon. Not only does the company provide outstanding service and insanely good offers to its customers, but it is the only company, let alone carrier, in the United States that has fought an FBI National Security Letter. While the company was not permitted to disclose that they had done so, media outlets used clues in the lawsuit they filed to determine it was Credo. After a Federal judge ruled NSLs were unconstitutional, word got out that it was indeed Credo and the company reaped tremendous publicity for putting their neck on the line to fight for civil liberties. Any company willing to defy the FBI to protect its customers deserves a look.

The moral of the story is – when you demonstrate to customers that their privacy matters, they, and sometimes the world, will show their appreciation. Do the opposite, and risk appearing on a bunch of “bad company” lists.

* AT&T and Verizon both engage in active blocking of certain software from their user’s cell phones. Verizon blocks the Google Wallet NFC payment feature on all Android phones in order to force users to its unpopular ISIS payment network. AT&T prohibits users from running video chat programs like Facetime or Google Hangouts on its network. Additionally, both companies set nearly identical prices in their cell plans, as a result of their #1 & #2 market positions.

Greg Brailsford is the owner of Company 50. Company 50 provides logo design, web design, and digital marketing services to small businesses.