Mike Isaac

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Twitter, Google Get More Transparent With Information Requests

privacy-263x300-featureThe more data you’ve got, the more you’ll get hassled by outsiders to see it. And giant consumer Internet companies like Twitter, Google and Facebook have a lot of data on us all.

To celebrate Data Privacy Day — which is apparently an actual thing — Twitter and Google released updates to their dedicated Transparency Report sites, pages dedicated to listing the number of government-issued requests for data the companies receive on a quarterly basis.

It’s comprehensive insofar as the reports show which countries are the most apt to be requesting data, though not the nature of each request.

Surprise, surprise, most of the information requests came from the U.S. government for both Twitter and Google.

Not surprisingly, information requests aimed at Google far outweighed the number that Twitter receives on a regular basis; Google got upward of 21,000 requests from July through December last year, while Twitter had only around 1,800.

Still, the number of requests being made of both companies continues to trend upward, which may be disconcerting to some privacy advocates. To Google’s credit, though, the number of times the company has complied with user-data requests seems to be decreasing over time since 2010. Perhaps that’s just because the number of superfluous requests has gone up as the volume has increased, but I’d say it’s better than seeing an upward disclosure trend.

Among the other data listed in Twitter’s report: Copyright takedown requests — which have included surprisingly few from the RIAA over the past six months — as well as general content removal requests, which only number in the low double-digits.

Where’s Facebook in all this data-disclosure hubbub? I’ve asked the company whether it plans to issue its own transparency report, but haven’t heard back yet. In the meantime, Facebook did unveil its Q&A series with Erin Egan, the company’s chief privacy officer, for users to ask questions they may have about the company’s policies.


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik