Internet firms expose secret US data demands

2014-02-04 07:26
A Google data centre. (AP)

A Google data centre. (AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

San Francisco - Internet titans eager to regain the trust of users for the first time on Monday provided insight into numbers of secret requests for user data made by the US government.

Disclosures from Google, Facebook and others came a week after US authorities agreed to give technology firms the ability to publish broad details of how their customer data has been targeted by US spy agencies.

The agreement came amid litigation from tech giants Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft and Yahoo.

The companies have been seeking the right to release figures on vast surveillance of online and phone communications, in the wake of leaked documents from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden

US officials used the authority of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Fisa) to ask for information from between 9 000 and 10 000 Google user accounts in the first six months of 2013, and between 12 000 to 13 000 accounts in the six months prior to that, according to a blog post by Google.

Transparency Report

Release of such data was subject to a six-month delay under terms of an arrangement with the US Department of Justice to let internet firms be slightly more open about how much information is sought under authority of Fisa court orders.

"Publishing these numbers is a step in the right direction, and speaks to the principles for reform that we announced with other companies last December," Google law enforcement and information security legal director Richard Salgado said in a blog post.

"But we still believe more transparency is needed so everyone can better understand how surveillance laws work and decide whether or not they serve the public interest."

Google included the Fisa request numbers in a routinely released Transparency Report about efforts by governments to legally obtain data from the California-based internet titan.

Facebook on Monday disclosed that it received Fisa requests for information from accounts of 5 000 to 6 000 of its more than one billion members in the first six months of last year, and from the accounts of 4 000 to 6 000 of its users in the prior six months.

Meanwhile, Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith said in a blog post that Fisa orders were used to demand information from between 15 000 to 16 000 accounts of users in the first six months of last year.

Yahoo, meanwhile, revealed that in the same time period US officials wielding Fisa court authority came looking for information from a 30 000 to 31 000 accounts of users.

The Sunnyvale, California-based company was quick to stress that while in the tens of thousands, the number of accounts targeted with Fisa requests made up less than one-hundredth of 1% of its global user base.

No details

Yahoo, Facebook, Google and others promised to routinely update the Fisa request figures, and to continue pressing for legal reform to share more information with users.

Currently, internet firms are allowed only to provide ranges of Fisa request numbers and barred from disclosing details regarding what was asked for or from whom.

"As we have said before, we believe that while governments have an important responsibility to keep people safe, it is possible to do so while also being transparent," Facebook legal counsel Colin Stretch said in a blog post.

"We will continue to advocate for reform of government surveillance practices around the world, and for greater transparency about the degree to which governments seek access to data in connection with their efforts to keep people safe."
Read more on:    google  |  facebook  |  yahoo  |  us  |  cybercrime  |  online privacy
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
6 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/Lifestyle
 

Adventure holidays you HAVE to put on your bucket list

Need a break from your usual boring routine? Consider one of these places for your next adventure holiday.

 
 

Where were you when you last felt alive?

6 impressive camping tips
Free outdoor yoga classes
Watch: 5 skills to improve your BMX riding
Tips on how to set your fitness goals

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Save up to R1000 on Hisense smartphones!

View the large range of Hisense smartphones. Buy today and save up to R1000!

Deal of the week!

Save R1200 on the Samsung 48” smart full HD LED television now only R8799. Buy now!

Toys 4 for the price of 3

Buy 4 toys and get the cheapest FREE! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Mind blowing prices – As seen on TV

Get mind blowing prices on 1000’s of products! Shop now.

Save 20% on Nivea beauty products!

Buy any two Nivea beauty products and save 20%. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

There is an easy social flow and the need to blend in, yet you may not feel entirely comfortable. Something beneath the surface...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.