Facebook turns user data over to NSA

facebookserversBy Jessica Guynn, Los Angeles Times

Looking to shield itself from a growing public backlash over damaging revelations that it turned over user data to the National Security Agency‘s clandestine Internet surveillance program Prism, Facebook said late Friday it had reached an agreement to divulge some details about the government requests it receives for information about its users.

Ted Ullyot, Facebook’s general counsel, said the company had urged authorities “to allow more transparency and flexibility around national security-related orders we are required to comply with.”

The result, he said, is Facebook’s first-ever report on requests from the government for its users’ information.

Facebook says that in the second half of 2012, the total number of requests for user data that it received from all local, state and federal authorities was between 9,000 and 10,000. Those requests targeted between 18,000 and 19,000 accounts. Facebook complied with 79% of the requests, it said.

The information does not break out national security requests.

“The government will only authorize us to communicate about these numbers in aggregate and as a range,” Ullyot said. “This is progress, but we’re continuing to push for even more transparency.”

In a statement, a Google spokesman said the deal that Facebook struck with the government was not sufficient.

“We have always believed that it’s important to differentiate between different types of government requests. We already publish criminal requests separately from National Security Letters. Lumping the two categories together would be a step back for users,” he wrote. “Our request to the government is clear: to be able to publish aggregate numbers of national security requests, including FISA disclosures, separately.”

Google has gone to greater lengths than any other Web company to disclose the nature and number of government requests for information about its users through its semiannual “transparency report.”Facebook, Google, Microsoft and other technology giants have been pressing the Obama administration to allow them to publicly disclose more information about the national security requests they get under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA.

The three-decade-old law lets intelligence agencies monitor the communications of non-U.S. citizens who are believed to be outside the United States and involved in terrorist or other criminal activities.

FISA bars companies from even acknowledging they have received such requests. That secrecy has created a firestorm of controversy after revelations that technology companies have been turning over foreign users’ data to NSA.

Google published an open letter this week to Atty. Gen. Eric Holder and FBI Director Robert Mueller to give it more freedom to share with users the number and scope of national security requests.

“Assertions in the press that our compliance with these requests gives the U.S. government unfettered access to our users’ data are simply untrue,” Google’s chief legal officer, David Drummond, wrote.

Facebook and Microsoft made similar public statements.

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9 comments

  • holdeninwa

    #Gov't spyin' don't bother me; in #fact am #banking on #surveillance of #mymedia to #effect #goodchange for #society

    • Luv Wknd

      I dumped my Facebook account(s) immediately after hearing about this blatant infringements on my U.S. Constitutional rights! In addition, I closed and quite using ANYTHING Google, dumped it as I’ve always hated Google in the first place – PERIOD! They stink plain and simple and NOW that their in the sack with the NSA, I wouldn’t suggest that ANY American citizen who enjoys the freedom of the United States Constitution also QUIT anything created by Google and Facebook and start using Ello instead of Facebook! https://ello.co/beta-public-profiles

      Ello’s manifesto states this:
      “Your social network is owned by advertisers.”
      “Every post you share, every friend you make and every link you follow is tracked, recorded and converted into data. Advertisers buy your data so they can show you more ads. You are the product that’s bought and sold.”
      “We believe there is a better way. We believe in audacity. We believe in beauty, simplicity and transparency. We believe that the people who make things and the people who use them should be in partnership.”
      “We believe a social network can be a tool for empowerment. Not a tool to deceive, coerce and manipulate — but a place to connect, create and celebrate life.”

      “You are not a product.”
      What is Ello?
      Ello is a simple, beautiful, and ad-free social network created by a small group of artists and designers.
      We originally built Ello as a private social network. Over time, so many people wanted to join Ello that we built a public version of Ello for everyone to use.

      Ad-free!

      Ello doesn’t sell ads. Nor do we sell data about you to third parties!

      Virtually every other social network is run by advertisers. Behind the scenes they employ armies of ad salesmen and data miners to record every move you make. Data about you is then auctioned off to advertisers and data brokers. You’re the product that’s being bought and sold.

      Collecting and selling your personal data, reading your posts to your friends, and mapping your social connections for profit is both creepy and unethical. Under the guise of offering a “free” service, users pay a high price in intrusive advertising and lack of privacy.

      We also think ads are tacky, that they insult our intelligence and that we’re better without them.

      Ello is a PBC
      On October 23, 2014 Ello became a USA Public Benefit Corporation, making it virtually impossible for Ello to ever sell ads or user data.

      Support Ello – Ello is completely free to use.
      We occasionally offer special features to our users. If we create a special feature that you really like, you may choose to support Ello by paying a very small amount of money to add that feature to your Ello account.

      You never have to pay anything, and you can keep using Ello forever, for free. By choosing to buy a feature now and then for a very small amount of money you support our work and help us make Ello better and better.

      Privacy
      When you use Ello we collect some information related to your visit. This information helps us understand in a general way how people are using Ello, so we can make our social network better.

      Unlike virtually every other social network, on Ello you can opt out of information sharing. Read How Ello Uses Information to learn how.

      Join Ello
      Ello is currently invitation-only. To join Ello, you need to know someone that is already on the network. Alternatively, you can request an invitation by visiting the Ello Home Page.

      U.S. government is dishonest and not trustworthy AT ALL!