June 18, 2013
Yahoo Reveals Amount Of Data Requests From Government Data-Mining Program
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
Following the lead of Apple, Facebook and Microsoft, Yahoo!'s Marissa Mayer yesterday announced the number of surveillance requests the Internet search company has received from the US government as a part of the National Security Agency´s (NSA) PRISM program.
Since the news of PRISM broke two weeks ago revealing a massive data-mining operation between the government and America´s largest web companies, many users have been asking for clarification on what kind of information is being requested and for what purpose. So far these companies have only been able to disclose how many requests they´ve received with some broad explanations why the government wants this data. Marissa Mayer and Yahoo!´s general counsel Ron Bell announced the number of requests they´ve received in a blog post yesterday, saying they released this information to maintain the user´s trust and respect.
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requests made up a portion of these 12 to 13 thousand requests, as well as requests for information relating to criminal investigations, such as fraud, homicides and kidnappings.
“Like all companies, Yahoo! cannot lawfully break out FISA request numbers at this time because those numbers are classified; however, we strongly urge the federal government to reconsider its stance on this issue,” reads the official Yahoo blog post.
The pair also say Yahoo! will release its firsts transparency report later this summer to reveal how many requests it receives from the government for user data.
Following public calls by web companies to relax their nondisclosure agreements, the US government finally allowed web companies to begin releasing information about how many requests they received over the past six months.
Facebook and Microsoft were the first to do so last Friday. The social giant revealed the government had issued between nine and 10 thousand data requests during that time, and Microsoft revealed it had received fewer -- between six and seven thousand requests during the same time frame.
Apple followed suit on Monday with a rare public announcement detailing its inner workings, saying it has received between four and five thousand data requests since December. Apple also noted, due to the level of encryption used, FaceTime and iMessage data cannot be used by the government in investigations.
Each of these four companies have stressed that no government agency has “direct access” to their servers and that each request for data must be accompanied with a subpoena or warrant.
“We frequently reject such requests outright, or require the government to substantially scale down its requests, or simply give the government much less data than it has requested. And we respond only as required by law,” explained Ted Ullyot, a lawyer for Facebook in a statement to the AFP last Friday.
Though Google prides itself on transparency and even made one of the first requests to the government to relax its nondisclosure agreements, it has yet to post the amount of user data requests it has received since December.