After intense lobbying for increased transparency, both Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT ) and Facebook (NASDAQ: FB ) have been allowed to released the number of government-related security requests each received the second half of 2102, Microsoft and Facebook recently announced.
For the six-month period ending Dec. 12, 2012, Microsoft received between 6,000 and 7,000 national or criminal security warrants, subpoenas, and orders, the company said. From U.S. government agencies, the security requests affected approximately 31,000 to 32,000 consumer accounts. According to Microsoft, the requests affect "a tiny fraction of Microsoft's global customer base."
Facebook reported that it received between 9,000 and 10,000 government security requests for data during the six-month period ending Dec. 31, 2012. The security requests affected between 18,000 and 19,000 customer accounts, according to Facebook. Ted Ullyot, Facebook's general counsel, said the requests, "run the gamut -- from things like a local sheriff trying to find a missing child, to a federal marshal tracking a fugitive, to a police department investigating an assault, to a national security official investigating a terrorist threat."
As is the case with Microsoft, Facebook was given the OK to publish government security requests; however, both companies were required to adhere to strict stipulations in their respective reports.
Microsoft described the reporting restrictions by saying, "We are permitted to publish data on national security orders received (including, if any, FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] Orders and FISA Directives), but only if aggregated with law enforcement requests from all other U.S. local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies; only for the six-month period of July 1, 2012, through Dec. 31, 2012; only if the totals are presented in bands of 1,000; and all Microsoft consumer services had to be reported together."
Going forward, both Microsoft and Facebook also reiterated their interests in further transparency.