Facebook, Microsoft disclose little on national security requests
They might have received FISA requests, but they're still not allowed to say so
IDG News Service - 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, Facebook said, the result of weeklong 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
This pilot fish is a contractor at a military base, working on some very cool fire-control systems for tanks. But when he spots something obviously wrong during a live-fire test, he can't get the firing-range commander's attention.
- IT Certification Study Tips
- Register for this Computerworld Insider Study Tip guide and gain access to hundreds of premium content articles, cheat sheets, product reviews and more.
- Reduce federal infrastructure risk with compliance management and situational awareness
- IBM continuous monitoring and management solutions deliver real-time situational awareness to help federal agencies understand vulnerabilities, and protect the infrastructure.
- 5 Customers Deliver Virtual Desktops and Apps to Empower a Modern Workforce
- Learn how Citrix solutions helped 5 companies realize the full value of desktop virtualization through a project-by-project approach based on key business priorities.
- Top 10 Reasons to Strengthen Information Security with Desktop Virtualization
- Regain control and reduce risk without sacrificing business productivity and growth
- IDC MarketScape: Worldwide Client Virtualization Software 2013 Vendor Assessment
- IDC has placed Citrix in the 2013 IDC MarketScape Leaders Category once again noting that, "Citrix's position reflects the company's market leadership and...
- Infographic: Top Use Cases for Desktop Virtualization
- A wide range of business issues is driving IT toward desktop virtualization. One solution-Citrix XenDesktop with FlexCast technology-helps IT teams empower their entire... All Government IT White Papers
- What Does it Take to Deliver a Superior Customer Experience? The Two Top-Rated Online Retailers, B&H Photo and Crutchfield Electronics, Share Their Secrets Discuss practical CX tools and service methods such as contact center agents and the use of realtime speech analytics to help contact center...
- Keep Servers Up and Running and Attackers in the Dark An SSL/TLS handshake requires at least 10 times more processing power on a server than on the client. SSL renegotiation attacks can readily...
- On Demand: Mastering the Art of Mobile Content Management Mobile device usage in the enterprise has skyrocketed, and it continues to escalate. IT must answer to users who demand access to their...
- DevOps with PureApplication System: Reduce cost and speed delivery with an integrated IBM Cloud solution Join this webcast to hear what ING Netherlands has been able to achieve while deploying DevOps tools from IBM Rational. An ING executive...
- NSS Labs & Cisco Present: Evaluating Leading Breach Detection Systems Today's constantly evolving advanced malware and APTs can evade point-in-time defenses to penetrate networks. Security professionals must evolve their strategy in lockstep to...
- All Government IT Webcasts