Facebook, Like Google, Urges Transparency for National Security Data RequestsBy: Josh Wolford - June 12, 2013
Like Google, Facebook was quick to deny any involvement in the so-called “PRISM” program, which leaks indicated involved high-profile tech companies providing the National Security Agency a “backdoor” to all of their user data. And like Google, Facebook is now calling for more freedom to publish national security data requests they receive from the U.S. government.
In a statement from Facebook General Counsel Ted Ullyot, the company urges the United States government to “allow companies to include information about the size and scope of national security requests.”
Facebook says if such allowances were granted, they’d be happy to publish a transparency report.
Here’s Ullyot’s full statement:
As Mark said last week, we strongly encourage all governments to be much more transparent about all programs aimed at keeping the public safe. In the past, we have questioned the value of releasing a transparency report that, because of exactly these types of government restrictions on disclosure, is necessarily incomplete and therefore potentially misleading to users. We would welcome the opportunity to provide a transparency report that allows us to share with those who use Facebook around the world a complete picture of the government requests we receive, and how we respond. We urge the United States government to help make that possible by allowing companies to include information about the size and scope of national security requests we receive, and look forward to publishing a report that includes that information.
As for what Mark said last week – the Facebook CEO was quick to deny any involvement in PRISM and called for all governments to be more transparent:
I want to respond personally to the outrageous press reports about PRISM:
Facebook is not and has never been part of any program to give the US or any other government direct access to our servers. We have never received a blanket request or court order from any government agency asking for information or metadata in bulk, like the one Verizon reportedly received. And if we did, we would fight it aggressively. We hadn’t even heard of PRISM before yesterday.
When governments ask Facebook for data, we review each request carefully to make sure they always follow the correct processes and all applicable laws, and then only provide the information if is required by law. We will continue fighting aggressively to keep your information safe and secure.
We strongly encourage all governments to be much more transparent about all programs aimed at keeping the public safe. It’s the only way to protect everyone’s civil liberties and create the safe and free society we all want over the long term.
Yesterday, Google made public a letter they sent to Attorney General Eric Holder asking the U.S. government to let Google publish the aggregate numbers of national security requests (including FISA disclosures) in their Transparency Report.
What we have here is both companies going on the offensive. It’s not enough to simply defend against allegations of playing fast and loose with user data – both Google and Facebook are demanding that the U.S. government let them tell users more about data requests.