As some consumers become more and more concerned about PRISM and just what, precisely, the government is looking at, tech companies have been revealing how many requests they get from federal, state, and local law enforcement, generally numbers which include FISA requests, the court under which PRISM operates. And there are a few surprises in the numbers.
First off, the winner for the most requests from law enforcement, and by a shockingly wide margin, is Yahoo!, which just acknowledged it got between 12,000 and 13,000 requests from various agencies between December 1st, 2012 and May 31st, 2013. Not even Facebook can touch that number; it states it received between 9,000 and 10,000 requests during the same time period. Companies that just provided operating systems fared better: Microsoft only offers data through the end of 2012, but it saw “between 6,000 and 7,000” requests, and Apple only saw “between 4,000 and 5,000”.
Really? Yahoo!? We suppose it makes sense: Yahoo! still has an enormous number of accounts, despite being supplanted by Google. Google, however, is also the most defiant and most specific. We not only have an exact number, 8,438, but also a total number of accounts involved, 14,791, and a percentage of how much data was turned over, 88%.
One claim that will come up a lot, that in fact several of the companies above have cited, is the fact that this is less than one percent of their user base, even if you limit that figure to active users. And this is true. That doesn’t change the central issue, though; why are these requests being made, and what accountability is there for the data collected, especially if it’s not acted on?