Edward Snowden Single-Handedly Forces Tech Companies To Come Forward With Government Data Request Stats
The tech policy community has been begging Facebook FB +1.62% for years to reveal the number of times that law enforcement and government agencies turn to it for information about its users. Reports varied wildly: In 2009, Newsweek said the site got 10 to 20 requests from police every day. In 2011, Reuters did a painstaking trawl through years of public court records trying to figure out how many times the po-po did Facebook searches and came up with only two dozen warrants. Facebook historically refused to hand over official numbers, but that changed on Friday. NSA leaker Edward Snowden got Facebook to do in two weeks what Facebook resisted doing for years: giving official stats on how often the government pokes around in its database.
In the last 6 months of 2012, the U.S. gov wanted data over 8,000 times for over 18,000 Facebook users. Facebook wasn’t the only company to come forward with numbers for the first time. On Monday, Apple AAPL +0.47% releasedinformation for the first time as well; from Dec. 2012 to May 2013, it received more than 4,000 requests for info about more than 9,000 Macheads. Sharing these relatively tiny numbers was the companies’ attempts to stave off claims that they are handing over massive amounts of intel to the NSA as part of the PRISM program. The government alerted tech companies Friday that they could hand over — for the first time — information about secret national security requests as long as they provided it in aggregated form along with all of the other government data requests that come in (such as the local police station trying to get information in a missing child case). Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft MSFT +1.74% issued those reports, but Google GOOG +1.35% objected, saying it wants to be able to list Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Acts requests on their own, rather than in a bundle. Still, even in a bundle, the numbers to come to light are illuminating in the case of Microsoft because of the ability to compare the new report with a previous report the company issued about 2012 data requests. See the chart below which includes the recent reports from Apple, Facebook and Microsoft, as well as the reports issued regularly by Google, Twitter, and, again, Microsoft:
Microsoft previously said that for all of 2012, it had 11,073 data requests for 24,565 accounts. Now Microsoft reports that in the last half of 2012, it received more than 6,000 requests for data for over 31,000 accounts. That’s a relatively dramatic spike in the number of people using Hotmail, Outlook, Bing and other Microsoft products who were caught up in national security investigations. It’s not a perfect comparison since we’re looking at a year’s worth of data in comparison to a half year, but it’s evident that these national security requests ask for information on far greater numbers of users. Read More
Posted on June 17, 2013, in #technology and tagged edward snowden, government cracking down, intelligence surveillance, Microsoft data requests, national security, public court records. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.