Reddit Publishes its First Transparency Report

Reddit published its first transparency report and said it received a relatively low number of government requests for user information and content takedowns.

Reddit on Thursday published its first transparency report, joining the litany of technology and online service providers who have already shed light on their privacy practices, and the extent to which governments makes requests for user information.

Reddit thrives on user-submitted content organized by category, or subreddits. It has not been without controversy, however. Most recently in December, the site decided to ban a subreddit where stolen files from the Sony hack were stored and distributed. And last August, in the throes of the celebrity nude photo hacking scandal, several subreddits distributing and reposting the stolen images were shut down.

The transparency report released yesterday covers requests for user information and content removal received in 2014, the site said in its announcement. In addition, the site said it has never received a National Security Letter or an order from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court under FISA.

“If we ever received such a request, we would seek to let the public know it existed,” reddit said.

The numbers are relatively low. Reddit said it received 55 requests for user information, which includes log data and content uploaded by users, in addition to any personal information used to register with reddit. As for content removal, reddit said it received 218 such requests and complied 68 times (31 percent). Most of those removal requests were for copyright or trademark infringement.

“We take all requests for the disclosure of user information seriously,” reddit said. “When we receive a request, we make sure it is legitimate and not overbroad, and we provide advance notice to affected users unless prohibited by a court order or where we decide delayed notice is appropriate based on clear criteria described in our privacy policy.”

Reddit said it complied with 58 percent of all government requests for user data, and with 64 percent of U.S. state and federal government requests. More than 90 percent of requests came from the United States in the form of subpoenas, warrants or emergency requests, reddit said.

Of the civil requests for user information, reddit said 30 percent of those were accompanied by a court order prohibiting them from notifying the users in question. The site said it won appeals of two civil subpoenas seeking data on more than two dozen users.

Of the 55 requests, 78 users accounts were named, 13 requests came with legally binding gag orders; in 32 cases, some information was disclosed.

“Many government requests we receive contain demands to withhold notice from users that carry no legal weight. We actively disregard these non-binding demands,” reddit said. “Our goal is to give users the information they need to seek legal advice before their records are disclosed. As stated in our privacy policy, we provide advance notice to affected users unless prohibited by a court order or where we decide delayed notice is appropriate based on clear criteria.”

Image courtesy of Eva Blue

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