Following Facebook, that recently published a global government requests report in light of all the NSA hoopla, Yahoo General Council Ron Bell said on Friday that the company's first global law enforcement transparency report is now available online for all to see (pdf). This report details requests made by global governments for user data from January 1, 2013, through June 30, 2013, and will be updated every six months.
"Our legal department demands that government data requests be made through lawful means and for lawful purposes," Bell states on Yahoo's Tumblr blog. "We regularly push back against improper requests for user data, including fighting requests that are unclear, improper, overbroad or unlawful. In addition, we mounted a two-year legal challenge to the 2008 amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and recently won a motion requiring the U.S. Government to consider further declassifying court documents from that case."
For the United States, the total number of government specified accounts was 40,322. This number includes users with more than one account, a single account involved with multiple government requests, and requests for accounts that no longer exist. With all the fat trimmed away, the government made 12,444 requests for actual data. In 4,604 cases, the full load of content was handed over to officials, while in 6,798 cases only non-content data was provided. Yahoo rejected 241 cases and found absolutely no data in 801 cases.
"The numbers reported above include all types of government data requests such as criminal law enforcement requests and those under U.S. national security authorities, including the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and National Security Letters (NSLs), if any were received," the report states. "The U.S. Government does not permit us to disclose additional details regarding the number of requests, if any, under national security authorities at this time, or even to separate them in aggregate from other requests."
As with the Facebook report, the United States was by far Yahoo's biggest client on the government request list. Germany came in at a distant second with 4,295 actual government data requests followed by Italy (2,637), Taiwan (1,942), France (1,855), United Kingdom (1,709) and India (1,490). New Zealand provided the least number of requests with only 9 followed by Ireland with a mere 17 and Canada with 29.
"At Yahoo, we take user privacy seriously and appreciate our role as a global company in promoting freedom of expression wherever we do business," the report states. "Our legal department demands that government data requests be made through lawful means and for lawful purposes. We regularly push back against improper requests for user data, including fighting requests that are unclear, improper, overbroad or unlawful."
Last week Facebook said that in the first six months of 2013, the U.S. government made between 11,000 and 12,000 requests on between 20,000 to 21,000 individuals. Approximately 79 percent of those requests produced some user data. That's surprisingly less than the number of requests the government made with Yahoo during the same time frame. Germany made more requests with Yahoo as well.
"Democracy demands accountability, and accountability requires transparency," Bell writes. "We hope our report encourages governments around the world to more openly share information about the requests they make for users' information."
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