Our work, our plans, our memories, our every little secret is safe with our online confederates – or is it?
Federal Government has been requesting personal customer information, in the name of national security, from the online giants that are considered as second home by many of today’s generation. Facebook was one of the first to come out with this issue stating that it received between 9,000 to 10,000 requests from the Federal Government to release confidential data regarding 18,000 to 19,000 of its users in 2012. Microsoft followed revealing their figure of 31,000 requests for consumer data . Apple also announced that it received 4,000-5,000 requests in which 9,000 to 10,000 accounts or devices were specified since December 2012. On finding themselves being surrounded by further questions about the motive behind the information extraction, the companies said that they were not allowed to talk about the nature of the search, however they noted that many of these requests were commonly related to local police investigations involving missing children, locating patients with Alzheimer’s disease, potential suicides and kidnapping.
With this issue coming to light, there is one more type of national security request that Google has been seeking permission to publish, it is the request to foreigners’ information demanded under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Even if the permission is granted, the numbers wont be able to paint the whole picture. This is because for every formal FISA request, the intelligence agents can add names and expand the extent of search query with every passing year, thereby making the data extraction levels higher and higher.
In all this, who is to say that which one of these two parties are at a greater loss? The consumers, who have no clue as to if, when, why and what part of their personal lives will become public knowledge, or these online companies who have worked all this time to develop their business model to be a safe-house for their consumer’s information but are at some degree on a legal and national obligation to comply with these government information requests without disclosing anything about them to the public.