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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs