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Facebook, Google, Microsoft & Yahoo divulge full extent of US surveillance


By John Glenday, Reporter

February 4, 2014 | 2 min read

Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo have, for the first time, divulged the full extent of US surveillance with the tech firms handing over data on tens of thousands of accounts between them.

Acknowledged under a limited disclosure agreement the US Justice Department the firms state that they turn over such data to US authorities once every six months at the behest of secret court orders.

The limited transparency afforded by this deal prevents the itemisation of individual requests made under the Prism surveillance operation however.

In a blog post Richard Salgado, Google’s legal director for information security, said: “We still believe more transparency is needed so everyone can better understand how surveillance laws work and decide whether or not they serve the public interest.

“Specifically, we want to disclose the precise numbers and types of requests we receive, as well as the number of users they affect in a timely way.”

Over the six month period from January to June 2013 Google handed over the metadata from as many as 999 customer accounts and communication content of as many as 9,999 customers. In that time Yahoo handed over the metadata for 1,000 individuals and communication content from 30,999 accounts.

Microsoft passed on up to 15,999 communications from individuals and the metadata for fewer than 1,000 accounts whilst Facebook divulged data from as many as 5,999 accounts and metadata for up to 999 people.

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