Twitter releases news government transparency report
Twitter released its third, biannual transparency report, showing the number of user data requests received from the government.
Twitter's third, biannual transparency report shows that the number of user information requests the company has received from 26 different governments has increased by 15 percent in the past six months.Skip to next paragraph
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The Wednesday report shows the US government made 902 user data requests from January through June 2013 – an increase from the 815 requests made from July to December 2012.
Though the increase might seem modest, Chris Calabrese, a legislative counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union, says the larger number of user data requests is concerning nevertheless.
"The concern is over the trend," says Mr. Calabrese. The data being collected from Twitter makes up a very small percentage of the total data requests the government receives, but when looking at the increase in Twitter’s data request numbers as part of a larger narrative of escalating government surveillance, the situation becomes more concerning, he says.
Countering what Calabrese says, Matt Zimmerman, a senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, does not find the increase in the number of user data requests concerning: the company is growing, and it is logical that the number of data requests would grow as well, but there is still a problem with the granularity of the transparency report, he says.
Increasing scrutiny has come to Internet companies’ transparency reports since former-National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden leaked documents detailing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court’s data collection and storage program, Prism. In the wake of these document leaks, the US government has been under increasing pressure to increase the transparency of its surveillance programs.
Though Twitter was not implicated in the Prism program, the company has also urged the government to allow for the release of the types of data requests it receives in its transparency report.
“One of the glaring holes in something that Twitter has pointed out [is that the company] is not allowed to say what kind of national security letters they received,” and this is the same problem that every other Internet company has come up against in its transparency reports as well, says Mr. Zimmerman.