Facebook Finally Joins Google, Twitter & Microsoft With A Transparency Report; But Locks It Behind A Registration Wall
from the not-so-transparent dept
Over the years, we’ve been happy to see Google launch and then continue to expand its “Transparency Report,” highlighting both government and private attempts to censor content or get information on users. Given how successful that’s been, Twitter and Microsoft have joined in as well, with similar transparency reports.
In fact, there’s been an ongoing argument between these tech companies and the DOJ, seeking permission to be able to include more data concerning FISA court orders to their transparency reports in order to be more transparent and complete — something we’d hope the government should want, but so far, has been fighting.
The latest entrant is Facebook, who has finally released a transparency report covering government requests for data (so, no info on other types of requests, such as copyright takedowns). The report shows that Facebook is certainly rejecting a decent number of requests that it feels are inappropriate. It also shows the data on the US using “ranges” (unlike every other country). So, for the US, they note that there were between 11,000 and 12,000 requests, impacting 20,000 to 21,000 accounts (and they complied with 79% of the requests). The use of ranges is consistent with Google, Twitter and Microsoft’s reports, where the government has only allowed such reports to include data on national security letters if there was a range given. This is stupid and petty by the DOJ. Having the exact aggregate number of requests — which might include other kinds of warrants/subpoenas as well as NSLs or FISC orders — isn’t going to reveal anything dangerous.
What’s interesting is that the included FAQ insists that this report “contains every request for user data we received for the first six months of 2013.” If that’s true then that suggests that Facebook is including FISC orders as well as NSLs. However, other companies, like Google and Microsoft have indicated that they haven’t been allowed to include FISC orders, which are often under gag orders.
Oddly, and for no clear reason, Facebook put the “transparency” report behind its registration wall — meaning that you can’t see it if you’re not a Facebook member or if you’re not logged in. That doesn’t seem very transparent, frankly. Perhaps Facebook’s legal team is similarly confused about Facebook’s own privacy settings, and forgot to set this page to be shareable with “the public.” Thankfully, there is a screenshot of the page so you can check it out: