INTERNET COMPANIES based in the US have released figures on the number of surveillance requests they received during the first six months of 2013.
These are the first such statistics released under legal agreements with the US Department of Justice over transparency of the secret court orders under which such information is released to the US National Security Agency (NSA). Yahoo, Microsoft and Google all took legal action that facilitated their ability to release this data.
The Guardian reports that 59,000 users had their data intercepted by internet firms in the period leading up to the first revelations made by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Yahoo was the most affected service with between 30,000 and 31,000 requests. This might have been connected to the fact that until recently it did not employ encryption on its email servers, making it even easier for agents to do their work.
Microsoft was second, though significantly lower, at between 15,000 and 16,000 requests. Google was third at betwen 9,000 and 10,000 requests.
Facebook was fourth with 5,000 to 6,000 requests and Linkedin brought up the rear with zero to 249 requests.
Writing on the company blog, Microsoft EVP of legal and corporate affairs and general counsel Brad Smith told users that a tiny proportion of users were affected, but emphasised that Microsoft could only report on its compliance with legal requests, not surveillance done outside the law.
He said, "....nothing in today's report minimizes the significance of efforts by governments to obtain customer information outside legal process. Since the Washington Post reported in October about the purported hacking of cables running between data centers of some of our competitors, this has been and remains a major concern across the tech sector."
All of the companies involved provided information going back several years, but under the agreements reached there are still no specifics released and there's a minimum delay of six months before the information can be released to protect national security. µ