Facebook downplays U.S. data requests

June 15, 2013 at 1:10 PM
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WASHINGTON, June 15 (UPI) -- Facebook's lawyer said the requests for account information it received from U.S. authorities last year covered a "tiny fraction" of its total customer list.

"With more than 1.1 billion monthly active users worldwide, this means that a tiny fraction of 1 percent of our user accounts were the subject of any kind of U.S. state, local, or federal U.S. government requests, General Counsel Ted Ullyot said in a Website posting Friday night.

Ullyot said in the second half of 2012, Facebook received 9,000-10,000 requests for information on 18,000-19,000 user accounts.

"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," Ullyot wrote.

Facebook and other U.S. Internet companies have been defending their privacy policies in recent weeks following revelations Washington routinely trolls Internet and telephone traffic for intelligence on potential terrorist threats.

CNN said Facebook and Microsoft received permission to reveal how many information requests it received from government agencies as long as it lumped the queries from the intelligence community in with those from police and other criminal investigators.

Microsoft said Friday it had 6,000-7,000 requests on up to 32,000 accounts, The Washington Post said.

The debate over the National Security Agency's monitoring efforts could hold high stakes for companies like Facebook, Microsoft and Google. Such companies have huge markets overseas, including nations where government surveillance of dissidents is prevalent.

"There has been a lot of discussion about Americans' privacy rights, but what about the privacy rights of everyone else?" Rebecca MacKinnon, an analyst for the New America Foundation who examines the effects of digital technologies on human rights, told the Los Angeles Times.

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