U.S. tops information seekers

In the wake of the continuing fallout of Edward Snowdon’s expose of the United States National Security Agency’s cyber surveillance activities, Twitter has released a report indicating that information requests it receives from governments worldwide in on the rise.

Of the 1,157 user information requests the microblogging site received from governments from January 1 to June 30 this year, 902 came from the U.S. For the same period last year, the U.S. also topped the list, accounting for 673 of the 849 information requests received by Twitter.

“The United States leads the way, comprising 78 per cent of all requests received,” Twitter said in its Transparency Report. “Japan remains the second largest requested with a total of eight per cent over all request, up from six per cent in July- December 2012.”
The top five information seekers are:

U.S. – 902
Japan – 87
United Kingdom – 27
Brazil – 22
Italy – 22

Twitter began is Transparency Report back in July 2012. The Total number of government requests it received from January 1 to June 30 last year was 849. From July 1 to December 30 that same year, the requests went up to 1,009.

“Information requests include worldwide government requests we’ve received for user account information, typically connected with criminal investigations or cases,” said Twitter.


In recent months there has been growing concerns over demands made by the U.S. government on social media, search engines and other technology companies to provide user data. Earlier this year, former NSA security contractor Snowden blew the lid off the NSA’s Prism program which was designed to gather online user data. Following the leak, it was made known that U.S. intelligence agencies are secretly empowered by law to compel American companies to release metadata on customers communications.
Early today, it was reported that Snowden has been granted temporary asylum in Russia. The former NSA contractor has been in exile since his expose and had been living in the Moscow airport. He was provided the necessary paper to enter Russian territory today, according to his lawyer.
A review of the NSA’s surveillance programs has become a top priority and the Civil Liberties Oversight Board will be releasing a public report about the legality and propriety of the metadata program.

In Canada, national Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart is looking into the privacy implications for Canadians of surveillance programs. Data protection commissioners in Europe and other countries have also voiced their concerns over the issue.

From July 1 through December 31 last year the U.S. government made 815 information requests covering 1,145 accounts. This accounted for 81 per cent of all requests received for that period.

An overview of the U.S. request for that period indicated that 60 per cent came by way of subpoenas, 11 per cent through court orders and 19 per cent via search warrants.

Ten per cent were marked “other,” these are request from law enforcement that do not fall other three categories, said Twitter.

“Examples include exigent emergency disclosure requests and other requests received for user information without valid legal process,” said Twitter.


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