Snowden fallout: Facebook, Microsoft clarify roles

Tech giants given leave to disclose level of government monitoring under NSA's 'spy project' Prism

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Snowden fallout: Facebook, Microsoft clarify roles Edward Snowden faces an extradition battle with US authorities.
By  Stephen McBride Published  June 16, 2013

Facebook Inc and Microsoft Corp this weekend released information on the number of requests they have received from the US government for the monitoring of online accounts as part of the National Security Agency's Project Prism, Reuters reported yesterday.

The tech companies won leave from the US Justice Department to disclose limited information as they attempted to quell the unease surrounding last week's whistleblower revelations of Prism, an e-surveillance initiative that was initially claimed to cover "direct access" to Facebook and Microsoft servers.

Facebook on Friday said in a blog post that it received between 9,000 and 10,000 government requests for user data in the second half of 2012, encompassing 18,000 to 19,000 user accounts. Facebook is said to have more than 1.1bn active users worldwide. Reuters reported that most requests were routine police inquiries, but that Facebook was not at liberty to say how many were issued under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

Microsoft announced it had received requests for data on 31,000 consumer accounts in the second half of 2012.

Project Prism was revealed by NSA third-party contractor Edward Snowden, who was an employee of Booz Allen Hamilton and was contracted out as a systems administrator to the NSA Threat Operations Center in Hawaii. Snowden insisted he was compelled to do so out of concern for the far-reaching implications of the programme and the "basic liberties for people around the world".

Early reports by the Guardian and the Washington Post suggested that intelligence community officials had untrammeled access to user accounts.

"We hope this helps put into perspective the numbers involved and lays to rest some of the hyperbolic and false assertions in some recent press accounts about the frequency and scope of the data requests that we receive," Facebook wrote on its site.

Google also moved to deny that the US government had any direct access to its systems, saying all requests for information were appropriately vetted within the company and information, when provided, was submitted via FTP.

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