Facebook continues pushback against PRISM allegations

Josh Peterson | Tech Editor

On Monday, Facebook continued to push back against the damaging allegations implicating the company as a willing participant in a massive National Security Agency Internet surveillance program.

During a live-streamed question and answer session, Facebook Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan explained how the company does not provide governments direct access to their servers, and responds to government requests as required by law.

“There’s many instances where we have not responded,” Egan said. “There’s instances where we’ve pushed back on the  government and asked them to narrow their requests, or we’ve just provided more limited information.”

Egan’s statements echoed what Facebook General Counsel Ted Ullyot said in a June 14 blog post addressing allegations that Facebook was one of several companies providing the NSA direct access to their servers to monitor suspects.

“For the six months ending December 31, 2012, the total number of user-data requests Facebook received from any and all government entities in the U.S. (including local, state, and federal, and including criminal and national security-related requests) – was between 9,000 and 10,000,” Ullyot wrote.

“These requests run the gamut – from things like a local sheriff trying to find a missing child, to a federal marshal tracking a fugitive, to a police department investigating an assault, to a national security official investigating a terrorist threat,” he said.

“The total number of Facebook user accounts for which data was requested pursuant to the entirety of those 9-10 thousand requests was between 18,000 and 19,000 accounts,” he said.

The company boasts 1.15 billion users worldwide, as of June 30.

Internet companies are worried about the affect the allegations made by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in early June could have on user confidence, and have been aggressively pursuing permission from the U.S. government to be more transparent about its user-data requests.

Facebook was one of 22 major Internet companies that sent a letter on July 17 to President Barack Obama, members of the intelligence community, and lawmakers on Capitol Hill urging government transparency in its national security investigations.

Numerous trade associations, non-profit organizations and investors also signed the letter.

The Cloud Security Alliance recently announced that 10 percent of its non-U.S. members have canceled a contract with a U.S.-based cloud provider.

The Cloud Security Alliance, a 48,000-member non-profit organization that promotes of security best practices for cloud computing, conducted the survey online between June 25 and July 9.

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