NSA scandal: Facebook says it received over 9,000 data requests from US government agencies in just six months


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The Independent US

Facebook received over 9,000 requests for data from the US government in the second half of last year after details about the National Security Agency's Prism surveillance programme were leaked.

The social networking giant spoke out following after former CIA technical assistant Edward Snowden's leaked details of the USA's Prism programme to the press. It was reported last week that online companies, such as Facebook, Yahoo and Microsoft had allowed the NSA direct access to their servers under Prism.

Facebook said that during the six months to December 31, 2012, the group received between 9,000 and 10,000 user data requests from all government entities in the US. These were made in relation to 18,000 and 19,000 user accounts.

Writing on the social networking site's blog, Ted Ullyot, Facebook General Counsel defended the company's position, stressing that it only responded to requests for data "as required by law".

Ullyot said that since stories surrounding the NSA broke last week the site had been in discussions with US national security authorities, urging them to allow Facebook to be more transparent and flexible with regards to national security related orders for information.

Only a "tiny fraction of one per cent" of user accounts had been subject to data requests during that six month period, Ullyot said, adding that he hoped this information would quash "hyperbolic and false assertions in some recent press accounts" about the data requests they receive from the US government.

Ullyot said the requests for user data ranged from sheriffs requesting data to help them find missing children and police departments investigating an assault, to national security officials investigating a terrorist threat.

"We scrutinize every government data request that we receive - whether from state, local, federal, or foreign governments.

"We've also made clear that we aggressively protect our users' data when confronted with such requests: we frequently reject such requests outright, or require the government to substantially scale down its requests, or simply give the government much less data than it has requested. And we respond only as required by law."

Their post signed off with reassurance that Facebook would be "vigilant" in protecting "our users' data from unwarranted government requests".

"We will continue to push all governments to be as transparent as possible."