Popular services like Snapchat and Skype are falling short on privacy protections for their users [press release], Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] said in a new report [text, PDF]. The report, released Friday, ranked the 11 companies that provide the most popular services, including Facebook and Apple. The analysis gave the companies a rating between 0 and 100 based on how well they score in five categories [infographic, PDF], although a major focus out of these categories was the end-to-end encryption factor, providing the most protection for users’ privacy and freedom of expression. Snapchat received one of the lowest total scores, with Microsoft’s Skype coming in just above. Facebook and Apple received the highest scores. AI “is calling on companies [report summary] to apply end-to-end encryption as a default. It is also calling on technology companies to clearly inform users of the level of encryption applied to their messaging services.”
The privacy of individuals [JURIST op-ed], and the use of technology by law enforcement, are important and evolving topics in the 21st century. Earlier this month the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), along with the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights [advocacy websites] and 50 other interest groups, sent a letter [JURIST report] urging the US Department of Justice [official website] to investigate the increasing use of facial recognition technology. Swiss voters in September voted to approve [JURIST report] a new surveillance law allowing their national intelligence service broad powers to spy on “terrorist” suspects and cyber criminals, as well as the ability to cooperate with foreign intelligence agencies. Also in September USA Today, the Associated Press and Vice Media filed a federal complaint [JURIST report] against the FBI [official website] seeking to learn how the government was able to overcome Syed Farook‘s [CNN backgrounder] iPhone’s encryption allegedly without Apple’s help. After Apple’s refusal to unlock the phone [JURIST report], the FBI used a third-party tool to accomplish the task. Now the media outlets seek to know what third-party tool was used, to what extent it may be used in the future and what security vulnerabilities the tool takes advantage of. In August a United Nations (UN) rights groups criticized [JURIST report] the US Investigatory Powers Bill, stating it could threaten freedom of expression and association.