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Facebook reveals government data request numbers, is first to include national security stats

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Facebook lawyer Ted Ullyot revealed in a post tonight precisely how many user-data requests it receives from government entities, and that it's negotiated the ability to include national security-related (FISA and National Security Letters) inquiries in the report. Until now, the companies that receive such requests, whether through the recently uncovered PRISM program or not, have not been able to say anything about them, or report how many there are. Still, the stats it's able to release aren't specific, and include all requests from the last six months in a range, said to be between 9,000 and 10,000, covering between 18,000 and 19,000 accounts. We still have no official reports on what those inquiries cover, how wide reaching a single one can be or what information has been passed along. Facebook however, is quick to point out that these cover "only a tiny fraction of one percent" of its 1.1 billion active user accounts.

Along with Microsoft and Google, Facebook has publicly petitioned the government to let it be more transparent about the size and scope of the requests it receives, and Reuters reports tonight that "several" internet companies have struck an agreement to do so. Expect more reports to arrive soon in similar formats, however Ullyot states Facebook will continue to push the government to be "as transparent as possible."

For the six months ending December 31, 2012, the total number of user-data requests Facebook received from any and all government entities in the U.S. (including local, state, and federal, and including criminal and national security-related requests) – was between 9,000 and 10,000. These 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. The total number of Facebook user accounts for which data was requested pursuant to the entirety of those 9-10 thousand requests was between 18,000 and 19,000 accounts.

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