Facebook, Microsoft disclose little on national security requests

They might have received FISA requests, but they're still not allowed to say so

Facebook and Microsoft each fielded thousands of requests for user data as part of law enforcement investigations from U.S. authorities in the second half of last year, they said late Friday.

Some of those investigations might have been related to national security -- but perhaps not. While the companies are for the first time allowed to include national security requests in the numbers, Facebook and Microsoft are still not permitted to say whether any are actually included.

The companies disclosed the figures in corporate blog posts. Facebook said it had received between 9,000 and 10,000 requests while Microsoft said it had gotten between 6,000 and 7,000 requests.

The release of data was, said Facebook, the result of week-long discussions with the U.S. government after allegations published in The Guardian and The Washington Post said the National Security Agency had "direct access" to the servers of major Internet companies. Facebook said it pushed the government for permission to release more information about the requests related to national security -- which until now it had been forbidden from acknowledging.

But restrictions laid down by the government mean the data does little to shed any light on snooping in the name of national security, including under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

"We are permitted to publish data on national security orders received (including, if any, FISA Orders and FISA Directives), but only if aggregated with law enforcement requests from all other U.S. local, state and federal law enforcement agencies; only for the six-month period of July 1, 2012 thru December 31, 2012; only if the totals are presented in bands of 1,000; and all Microsoft consumer services had to be reported together," wrote John Frank, Microsoft's deputy general counsel.

So the numbers announced by the two companies include a broad range of requests.

"These requests run the gamut from things like a local sheriff trying to find a missing child, to a federal marshal tracking a fugitive, to a police department investigating an assault, to a national security official investigating a terrorist threat," wrote Ted Ullyot, Facebook's general counsel, in a blog post.

Grouping of the national security requests related to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) with other more mundane requests was, of course, by design.

The several thousand requests might include some under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, but they might not, Frank wrote.

"We are still not permitted to confirm whether we have received any FISA orders, but if we were to have received any they would now be included in our aggregate volumes," he wrote.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags privacyMicrosoftFacebooklegalCriminal

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?