Nerval's Lobster writes: Google, Yahoo, and other tech firms are offering some updated statistics about government requests for data. There’s just one problem: under revised guidelines issued by the federal government, those companies can still only report a range, rather than a definitive number, for those requests. If that wasn’t fuzzy enough, the range can only be reported after a six-month lag. Between January and June 2013, Google received between 0-999 FISA “non-content” requests on 0-999 user accounts; it also fielded between 0-999 “content” requests for between 9000 and 9999 user accounts.Yahoo actually received a larger number of FISA queries than Google: for the first six months of 2013, the federal government made between 0-999 requests on between 30,000 and 30,999 user accounts hosted by the company. Facebook apparently received fewer requests than either Yahoo or Google for information; Microsoft received less than 1,000 FISA orders for user data, related to between 15,000 and 15,999 accounts—placing it somewhere between Yahoo and Google on the information-request scale. These companies have little choice but to advocate this new information release as a huge step forward for transparency. Unfortunately, restricting government data requests to a broad range isn’t very helpful: for example, a range (rather than a single numerical value) makes it difficult to determine trends, such as whether government requests are gradually increasing over the long term. The new revelations are a start, but privacy advocates would probably argue they don’t go nearly far enough.
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