Online Services' Transparency Reports Still Fall Short on Data Demands
Companies such as Facebook and Yahoo are rushing to release online transparency reports, but they continue to lack details on national security requests.On Sept. 9, Yahoo became the latest online-services company to release a report on the number of times that governments requested information on the company's users, following Facebook's release of its own transparency report in August.
The report shows that Yahoo fielded 12,444 requests from the U.S. government in the first half of 2013, releasing information on more than 40,000 user accounts. While the online posting gives important statistics on how often government requests resulted in the handoff of information—the U.S. government received data in 92 percent of its requests to Yahoo—it and other Internet firms' reports do not break out the number of demands citing national security as the purpose of the request.Like its rivals, Yahoo has stressed that it does not allow the government direct access to its users' data and closely scrutinizes any request. "Our legal department demands that government data requests be made through lawful means and for lawful purposes," the company said in its statement accompanying the report. "We regularly push back against improper requests for user data, including fighting requests that are unclear, improper, overbroad or unlawful." By publishing the report, Yahoo joined Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter and other Internet companies that have released transparency reports. Yet the companies are not allowed to detail the number of requests made by U.S. government agencies under anti-terrorism statutes or Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).