Facebook Reveals Government Spying Numbers [UPDATE: Microsoft Too]

It's not enough, but it's sure a start: with post-PRISM privacy backlash still flaring, Facebook pressed the US government to allow some limited disclosure of gag order demands. This is our first glimpse at how much of our data is handed over.

According to top Facebook attorney Ted Ullyot, for a six month period "ending December 31, 2012, the total number of user-data requests Facebook received from any and all government entities in the U.S....was between 9,000 and 10,000." The company can only release so-called "bucketed" numbers in a range, but those 9-to-10 thousand requests correspond to between "18,000 and 19,000 accounts." We don't know how many of these requests were executed by Facebook — a Wall Street Journal source says the company "complied at least partially with 79%" of them. This, as FB is quick to point out, is a minuscule fraction of the network's billion-plus user base — but it is only a six month range out of many, many years of global popularity. It's also worth noting that not all of these requests pertained to FISA or national security-related investigations — some of them could have been for "things like a local sheriff trying to find a missing child," says Ullyot. We don't know.

What we do know is that the company claims it's "continuing to push for even more transparency," and what we can hope is that this will (quickly) translate into a better understanding of how, and how much, we're being watched.

Update: Microsoft followed suit, reports the Journal:

Microsoft later Friday said it received 6,000 to 7,000 requests for data in the second half of the year, from all U.S. government and law-enforcement entities in the U.S.


    Too little too late. The hysteria train is in full effect. Just look at the child like hive mind over at the xbox facebook page at the moment.

    What I love the most is they complain about the NSA on the new Xbox One all the while typing the complaint on a Microsoft OS which if you are typing on a laptop no doubt has a webcam. Where is the mass expeditious to linux?

    Where is the add campaign from MS stating that at least they don't get your credit card details stolen?

      while typing the complaint on a Microsoft OS which if you are typing on a laptop no doubt has a webcam

      Not quite as comparable, you can disable a webcam by removing the drivers etc and it won't work at all without impacting the laptop if that's your kinda thing. I don't know if I'd be so quick to call it a 'child like hive mind' when it's turning out the depth of the governments spying is deeper than people thought. Ask people a year ago and they never would've thought they were being spied on like this. Now? Trust has been shattered.

        So you'll trust your bank details. Emails. Facebook account tax files etc as long as a camera isn't switched on. Lets remember here that Microsoft wasn't spying but the NSA.

          Nothing is safe any more, sitting there trying to make a point that anyone is a fool for doing so is pointless. My internet banking is behind a bunch of 'security' that may not be foolproof, but, if anything does go wrong, insures me against it. If something does happen to my account, I can claim that money back and have done so from CBA years ago when my account was broken into somehow (500 dollars spent on jewellery in LA when I was working in Brisbane, go figure), got the money back within 3 days.) As far as emails go, shit, well, it's on the internet, what do you expect. I think the deeper part here comes down, from your previous msg before to you justifying the Xbone and its horrible measures, but that's an entirely different topic.

          Where is the mass expeditious to linux?

          Nowhere and there never will be because its a fucking horrible system for a beginner to use. I'm also certain you meant 'exodus' there too btw.

          Last edited 18/06/13 8:55 am

            I'm not trying to defend the whole situation. The fact that we are being spied on is terrible I just can't understand why the Xbox One seems to be recieving the entire attack from all the pissed off people.

            Where is the facebook hate pages about facebook spying or google searches and docs being tracked and viewed. I just think it is slightly unfair.

            I doubt these companys could have just said no the the Government. Although if I remember correctly did something similar happen to Internode or a similar provider where the government tried to force documents over to have them "accidentally" wipe everything before hand.

              Where is the facebook hate pages about facebook spying or google searches and docs being tracked and viewed. I just think it is slightly unfair.

              Have you missed the last seven or so years?

              It's well known Facebook spies on everything, they utilise and sell off data to other companies, hence your customised ads dependant on your browsing on the internet. The Facebook and Google thing has only just come to light, so give it a little time instead of jumping up firing off the sixshooters. The Xbone deserves the attack it's getting because of the draconian measures it implements and the fact it has an always on camera attached to it. When a company betrays your trust like that and then pushes out something into your loungerooms with a camera like that? People are definitely going to leap to the *logical* conclusion, even if that logical conclusion may be at point C instead of B. It's not illogical if there's basis in reality for those beliefs.

              Because Xbox One has a camera and microphone that can't be turned off... at all. There are said to be various states of "off" configured in software only.. but the microphone listens for the "on" command in all states.. so.. that's a funny definition of "off". If the system is never fully off then it's vulnerable to remote access. Maybe you want to cover the cam? You can't. Kinect knows when it's being obstructed and will spam error messages until you let it watch you.

                Ok that is messed up, I was going to just do the duct tape trick, what if you just face the wall with it.

                  Still no good as it will complain that its calibration is now off since you would have originally had to set it to scan the room, measuring distances, and it would have saved those settings. The only way to get it fully off is to unplug the whole Xbox One.

            Ubuntu is great for a beginner.

              I absolutely agree but the problem with Linux though, is you have to learn some deal of 'coding' to get things to work. Not exactly 'coding' in the literal sense of the word, but most people just want to 'plug and play' with their OS. People like myself agree with you, but people like my folks, my sister, my ex gf, they won't have a bar of linux. It's too complicated for them despite the great advantages it can bring.

              Last edited 18/06/13 9:31 am

                nah man, i'm an idiot and i can use it.

                i actually find it much easier to use than windows or os.

      Where is the ad campaign from MS stating that at least they don't get your credit card details stolen?


      Looks like your phone doesn't like 'exodus'. I know I'm nitpicking here, but 'mass exodus' is like 'ATM Machine'. It drives me crazy.

      An exodus is a mass migration. It is already massive. It's like saying wet water. Even news outlets are doing it now. Stop the madness. Think of the children.

    I can’t believe I just read this mismatch of horrible copy-paste lines blended together with unnecessary quotations and no point about government policy on a gaming news site.

    I read an interesting article in Wired Magazine last year about the NSA and a new data centre they're building in Utah.


    No-one is safe from being spied on anymore.

    could have been for “things like a local sheriff trying to find a missing child,”...

    ...or could have been some jackass local sheriff snooping on his wife to see if shes cheating... or diggin up dirt on someone that owes him money. Without due process this just leads to abuse of privileges.

    It's a little bit ironic though, given how much people willingly divulge on Facebook anyway. There are numerous occasions where people have found all they need to about a person by leveraging Social Networking sites, starting from just a name or a picture. It would also be interesting to see how many non-government organisations ask for user data as well, given that Facebook's main revenue stream is directed advertising. I'm not saying that what the US government is doing is right in any way, just that people don't exactly make it hard for others to spy on them these days.

    Last edited 18/06/13 7:16 pm

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