News / USA

Web Companies Give First Look at Secret US Government Data Requests

An illustration shows the logos of Google and Yahoo connected with LAN cables in a Berlin office Oct. 31, 2013. The U.S. National Security Agency has tapped into communications links used by Google and Yahoo to move huge amounts of email and other user in
An illustration shows the logos of Google and Yahoo connected with LAN cables in a Berlin office Oct. 31, 2013. The U.S. National Security Agency has tapped into communications links used by Google and Yahoo to move huge amounts of email and other user in
Reuters
Facebook, Microsoft , Yahoo and Google on Monday began publishing details about the number of secret government requests for data they receive, hoping to show limited involvement in controversial U.S. surveillance efforts.
 
The tech industry has pushed for greater transparency on government data requests, seeking to shake off concerns about their involvement in vast, surreptitious surveillance programs revealed last summer by former spy contractor Edward Snowden.
 
The government said last month it would relax rules restricting what details companies can disclose about Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court orders they receive for user information. Several companies, including Google and Microsoft, sued the government last year, seeking the ability to disclose more of that data.
 
Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith said on Monday the latest data showed that the info the government has asked online companies to turn over has not been as vast as some feared.
 
“We have not received the type of bulk data requests that are commonly discussed publicly regarding telephone records,” Smith said. “This is a point we've publicly been making in a generalized way since last summer, and it's good finally to have the ability to share concrete data.”
 
Between 15,000 to 15,999 Microsoft-user accounts were the subject of FISA court orders requesting content during the first six months of 2013, the company said.
 
Still, Smith cited media reports - based on Snowden's leaked documents - that the government may have intercepted user information without tech companies' knowledge or cooperation, by tapping into communications cables that link Google and Yahoo datacenters.
 
“Despite the President's reform efforts and our ability to publish more information, there has not yet been any public commitment by either the U.S. or other governments to renounce the attempted hacking of Internet companies,” he said on Microsoft's blog. “We believe the Constitution requires that our government seek information from American companies within the rule of law.”

Breakdown
 
Several Internet companies had previously disclosed an approximate number of national security letters, which typically seek customer data without court approval. Now, they have greater leeway also to disclose details around FISA orders.
 
Google said that between 9,000 and 9,999 of its users' accounts were the subject of such requests during the period, while Facebook said it received FISA content requests for between 5,000 to 5,999 members' accounts.
 
Yahoo said between 30,000 and 30,999 of accounts received FISA requests for content, which it said could include words in an email or instant message, photos on its Flickr photo-sharing service and address book or calendar entries.
 
The companies released the information on their respective blogs.
 
The various requests affected a fraction of a percent of the hundreds of millions of users each company says employ its online services, from email and search to social networking.
 
In terms of aggregate requests, Microsoft, Google and Facebook said they each received between 0 and 999 FISA content requests during the first six months of 2013.
 
The companies are required to report the number of requests in increments of 1,000, and can only report the data with a six-month delay, under the relaxed rules.
 
The three companies also said they had received between 0 and 999 “non-content” FISA orders between January and June 2013, seeking general information such as user names.

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid