Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Governments Requested Information on as Many as 19,000 Facebook Accounts

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at the Facebook Home launch event.Government agencies requested information on somewhere between 18,000 and 19,000 Facebook accounts, according to a post on the company’s website.

The disclosures follow negotiations that Facebook and other tech companies have held with federal agencies over their desire to include requests approved under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Those requests are approved by a secret court and even discussing the fact that the requests have ever been made has been prohibited by law.

In the post, Facebook general counsel Ted Ullyot said that the company had received a total of between 9,000 and 10,000 requests from government agencies, meaning that about two accounts were involved for each request received. And that’s out of about 1.1 billion total Facebook accounts or about 0.0009 percent of total accounts. It’s unclear exactly how many times Facebook cooperated, and how many times and on what grounds it may have refused. The disclosure covers the six months ending December 31 of last year.

As yet the government has allowed Facebook to disclose only aggregate numbers, so it’s impossible to know how many of these were FISA-related requests. Ullyot writes that the requests ran a wide gamut from a “local sheriff trying to find a missing child” to police departments investigating routine cases like assaults to national security officials investigating terrorist threats.


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