Facebook

Facebook has released a transparency report, for the first time ever revealing all U.S. national security-related requests (including FISA as well as National Security letters).

Government requests to Facebook for information

For the six months ending December 31, 2012, the total number of user-data requests Facebook received from government entities in the U.S. (including local, state, and federal, and including criminal and national security-related requests), was between 9,000 and 10,000, says Facebook.

The total number of Facebook user accounts for which data was requested pursuant to the entirety of those nine to ten thousand requests was between 18,000 and 19,000 accounts. Facebook has more than 1.1 billion monthly active users worldwide. The numbers translate into only a fraction of one percent of Facebook user accounts, points out Facebook, that were the subject of government request in the past six months.

Government requests for information included those from a local sheriff trying to find a missing child, a federal marshal tracking a fugitive, a police department investigating an assault, and a national security official investigating a terrorist threat, among others, says Facebook.

Aftermath of the Prism controversy

Since the Prism controversy broke,  Facebook says it has been in discussions with U.S. national security authorities, urging them to allow more transparency and flexibility around national security-related orders the company is required to comply with.

As a result of these discussions, Facebook says it can now include national security-related requests in a transparency report. The government has only authorized Facebook to communicate about the numbers in aggregate, and as a range, says the social networking behemoth.

Ted Ullyot (General counsel, Facebook): We will continue to be vigilant in protecting our users’ data from unwarranted government requests, and we will continue to push all governments to be as transparent as possible.

Facebook says it is urged government authorities to allow companies to divulge appropriate information about government orders and requests, in a manner that does not compromise legitimate security concerns.

Requests from law enforcement entities investigating national security-related cases are by their nature classified and highly sensitive. “The law traditionally has placed significant constraints on the ability of companies like Facebook to even confirm or acknowledge receipt of these requests – let alone provide details of responses, says Facebook general counsel Ted Ullyot.

[Image courtesy: Facebook]