On the occasion of Data Privacy Day, Twitter has released its second
biannual Transparency Report and — what do you know? — Twitter is still
giving away more user information requested by the U.S. government than
ever, and without a warrant. It's the continuation of a frightening
trend that's as frightening as it is growing; as the likes of Google and
Twitter tell us more about how we're being spied on, we're still not
sure how much of our data the government's actually getting back.
According to Twitter's data — housed on a new dedicated site but
focusing on information requested from the government rather than
granted by the site — in the last six months more than 80 percent of the
U.S. government's asks on user data came without a warrant:
According to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, authorities
only need a warrant for electronic communications that are six months
old or newer. For everything else, including IP and email addresses,
a subpoena, which doesn't involve a judge at all, will still suffice as
far as the law is concerned. It's hard to tell if the warrantless search
number represents an increase from six months ago, when Twitter put out
its first transparency report. The company didn't break down the types
of requests last year when looking into its media-sharing numbers. But
it did get more overall notices from the government in the last six
months, with 815 total requests in the last six months, compared to the
679 Twitter got in the first half of 2012.
Google, too, has seen an uptick in government requests, including a number of warrantless searches. Its transparency report
from last week reported a total 21,389 requests for information, 68
percent of which were subpoenas. This was also the first time Google
broke down government info requests by type, so the warrantless-request
uptick remains difficult to measure. But, again, the overall notices
increased from 20,938 government requests in Google's 2011 report.
U.S. officials are asking for more of what we're doing from more of our
daily Internet activities — and more often than not, they're doing so
without getting a court's permission. The privacy act is part of that,
and so is a growing database of government eyes.
Google, however, is hoping to change that.
The search giant has
increased its lobbying efforts to get the outdated privacy changed, reports
Bloomberg's Eric Engleman. In 2012, Google spent $16.5 million on lobbying, up from $9.7 million the year before. This year, the Senate will vote on an updated version of the ECPA that requires a warrant for all email and private communication
stored over the cloud. Google is in talks with other advocacy groups to
creating a coalition to get those reforms passed, a Google spokesman