WhatsApp surveillance eye
WhatsApp's data disclosure policies earned one out of five stars in 2015. Apple, on the other hand, couldn't have done better. Reuters/Dado Ruvic

If you're concerned about privacy it may be time to re-evaluate messaging platforms. WhatsApp flunked the “Who Has Your Back?” test from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the annual assessment that scores companies based on how well they protect user data from censorship and surveillance.

The EFF released its fifth annual “Who Has Your Back?” report this week, grading various technology and telecommunications companies on how transparent they are when it comes to informing users about government requests for information. WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned smartphone messaging app, earned only one of five stars, tied for last place with AT&T. Nate Cardozo, an EFF staff attorney who worked on the report, told Wired the EFF spoke to WhatsApp about its privacy policy a year ago.

“We were very optimistic they'd get policies and procedures in place after the Facebook acquisition,” he said. “Facebook is lawyered up and they know how to create these policies. WhatsApp didn't, and that's disappointing.”

Apple was one of nine companies that earned full marks from the digital rights groups. Newcomer Reddit earned four stars, and Google slipped from five stars in 2014 to three.

The EFF awarded stars based on whether the company follows industry-accepted best practices, tells users about government data demands, discloses policies on data retention, discloses government content removal requests and whether it has a pro-user public policy and opposes surveillance backdoors.

WhatsApp earned a star only for opposing surveillance backdoors, a kind of security hole the FBI has asked Congress to enact into law. AT&T follows industry-accepted best practices and Verizon Wireless earned two stars for disclosing content removal requests and following best practices. Adobe, Credo Mobile, Dropbox, Sonic.net, Wikimedia, WordPress and Yahoo! each earned five starts, along with Apple.