Saturday, June 15, 2013

 

Google, Twitter sit on NSA PRISM data as Facebook, Microsoft release

Google and Twitter say releasing misleading numbers about how much user data they’ve funneled to the government as part of its NSA PRISM program would be a greater public disservice than keeping the numbers secret, which they both plan to continue doing. 

This comes in the face of Facebook and Microsoft both releasing numbers on how many requests for private user account information they’ve received, which have turned out to be surprisingly low. Facebook gave the government information on about twenty thousand user accounts while Microsoft coughed up about thirty thousand.

The relatively low numbers in comparison to Microsoft’s hundred of million of registered users and Facebook’s billion-plus user headcount are serving as an anticlimax after weeks of public furor following the leak by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden who revealed that the agency has been continuing the PRISM data collection program under President Obama which had begun under President Bush had been thought to have since been discarded. 

Expectations swelled to the belief that the federal government was actively observing every Facebook post and phone call made by every American, while the released numbers reveal the program to have been relatively small in nature. 

Still, those who consider PRISM a violation of Fourth Amendment rights will dismiss the program as unconstitutional regardless of headcount.

And in fact the numbers of federal government snooping instances are even lower than what’s been announced, as the government has required that Microsoft and Facebook blend those numbers in with other law enforcement requests which effectively overstates them. 

But Twitter and Google believe that releasing no numbers is better than releasing imprecise ones, or at least that’s the excuse they’re using to avoid putting any wrongdoing in numbers.


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