All men are frauds. The only difference between them is that some admit it. I myself deny it. - H.L. Mencken
INTERNET GIANTS Apple, Facebook and Microsoft have counted up the number of requests that they get from US surveillance and law enforcement agencies and have come up with many thousands.
Between them the firms have well over a million users, but it seems that few are reached by the long arm of the law, and actual requests for user or device information is just very small parts of their businesses.
Apple said that in a six month period ending in May it received 5,000 requests covering 10,000 accounts and devices.
Microsoft has reported numbers for the same period, and its users seem to have attracted the most attention.
"For the six months ended December 31, 2012, Microsoft received between 6,000 and 7,000 criminal and national security warrants, subpoenas and orders affecting between 31,000 and 32,000 consumer accounts from US governmental entities (including local, state and federal)," it said, adding that this "only impacts a tiny fraction of Microsoft's global customer base".
At Facebook the request count was between 9,000 and 10,000, and the firm said that these applied to as many as 19,000 accounts.
All three said that the bulk of requests concerned less controversial law enforcement investigations, and not the surveillance dragnet that we associate with PRISM.
Typical requests concerned things like robberies and missing people, according to each of the statements.
"With more than 1.1 billion monthly active users worldwide, this means that a tiny fraction of one percent of our user accounts were the subject of any kind of US state, local, or federal US government request (including criminal and national security-related requests) in the past six months," added Facebook.
"We hope this helps put into perspective the numbers involved, and lays to rest some of the hyperbolic and false assertions in some recent press accounts about the frequency and scope of the data requests that we receive."
The firms said that it was due to discussions with US national security agencies that they were able to come forward with the new numbers on information requests. µ
Sign up for INQbot – a weekly roundup of the best from the INQ