updated 04:30 pm EST, Mon February 3, 2014
FISA requests detailed in agreement with US government
A group of tech companies have released more information about government requests from the NSA and other agencies for user information, as part of their transparency reporting programs. Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Yahoo, and Microsoft have all posted more statistics online for these Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requests, following an agreement between the companies and the US Department of Justice (DoJ).
The change in reporting stems from requests by the group to the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, asking to publish data about FISA orders. Though the US government has backed down, something it partly covered during President Barack Obama's NSA reforms speech, there are still restraints on what can be reported. Data can only be reported in bands of one thousand, and while the reporting period is covering the first six months or the latter six months of a year, the data cannot be published until six months after the end of the reporting period itself.
FISA requests made to Google
Despite appeasing the companies, some parties believe the reportable data can be more detailed. Richard Salgado, legal director for law enforcement and information security at Google, wants to "disclose the precise numbers and types of requests we receive, as well as the number of users they affect in a timely way. That's why we need Congress to go another step further and pass legislation that will enable us to say more."
Between January and June of 2013, the latest reporting period available, Google received less than 1,000 requests to less than 1,000 users or accounts for non-content items, namely user information and transactional information, with a similar number of requests for content, such as the text of e-mails or images. The number of accounts the content requests affected lies between 9,000 and 10,000.
A similar table from Facebook shows similar figures for non-content requests as Google in the same period, with less than a thousand content requests affecting less than 5,000 accounts. Microsoft, LinkedIn, and Yahoo have also updated their transparency reports in a similar manner.