Top corporations release new data on government requests for info

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Some of the biggest tech and internet corporations began releasing updated transparency reports.
Some of the biggest tech and internet corporations began releasing updated transparency reports.

After winning a battle against the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), some of the biggest technology and internet corporations – including Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, LinkedIn and Facebook – began releasing updated transparency reports on Monday.

According to the new rules, companies can now consider two different options when reporting on government requests – one that allows for more generalized aggregate reporting in bands of 250, or another that allows for a greater breakdown of reporting in bands of a thousand.

Microsoft chose the latter option and announced that, between Jan. 1, 2013, and June 30, 2013, it had received between zero and 999 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) orders seeking disclosure of content. The requests impacted between 15,000 and 15,999 accounts.

For the same period, the company received between zero and 999 non-content FISA requests that impacted the same number of accounts, which mirrored non-content requests based on National Security Letters (NSL) during the same timeframe.

“While there remain some constraints on what we can publish, we are now able to present a comprehensive picture of the types of requests that we receive from the U.S. Government pursuant to national security authorities,” according to a post by Brad Smith, general counsel and executive vice president with Microsoft.

LinkedIn chose the other option and announced that, between Jan. 1, 2013, and June 30, 2013, it had received between 0 and 249 national security requests that impacted between 0 and 249 accounts. National security requests in this option are comprised of FISA orders and NSLs.

“We did so because we believe that this option gives our members and the public a more accurate picture of the number of national security-related requests we receive and the number of accounts impacted, even though this option requires us to aggregate national security-related requests,” according to a post by Erika Rottenberg, general counsel at LinkedIn.

Facebook, Google and Yahoo also released updated FISA and NSL request numbers for the time period of Jan. 1, 2013, to June 30, 2013.

Facebook announced it received between zero and 999 FISA content requests that affected 5,000 to 5,999 accounts. Google announced it received between zero and 999 FISA content requests impacting between 9,000 and 9,999 accounts. Yahoo announced it received between zero and 999 FISA content requests that impacted between 30,000 and 30,999 accounts.

Companies are required to wait six months before publishing a new report, but Yahoo, Facebook and Microsoft all announced receiving between zero and 999 NSL requests, impacting the same number of accounts, between July 1, 2013, and Dec. 31, 2013.

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