Twitter officials are pushing the United States government for more freedom to publish specific numbers about national security information requests, and said the company is considering its legal options if the government doesn’t allow more data to be made public.
In its latest transparency report, Twitter said that officials had met with the FBI and Department of Justice earlier this year in an effort to provide more transparency about the national security requests the company receives. Several other companies, including Microsoft and Facebook, have been pressuring the U.S. government for more flexibility on this front, as well, with limited success. The government earlier this year conceded some ground and began allowing companies to publish data on the number of National Security Letters they receive in smaller chunks. But the companies want to be able to publish exact numbers of the NSLs they receive, something the government has so far refused to allow.
“Specifically, if the government will not allow us to publish the actual number of requests, we want the freedom to provide that information in much smaller ranges that will be more meaningful to Twitter’s users, and more in line with the relatively small number of non-national security information requests we receive. We also pressed for the ability to be specific about different kinds of national security requests and to be able to indicate ‘zero requests’ if that applies to any particular category of request,” Jeremy Kessel, senior manager of global legal policy at Twitter, said.
Kessel said that the company was dissatisfied with the outcome of the meeting with government officials.
“So in early April, we sent a draft midyear Transparency Report to DOJ that presented relevant information about national security requests, and asked the Department to return it to us, indicating which information (if any) is classified or otherwise cannot lawfully be published. At this point, over 90 days have passed, and we still have not received a reply. Therefore, we are weighing our legal options to provide more transparency to our users,” Kessel said in a blog post accompanying the transparency report.
Right now, companies are allowed to publish this NSL data in ranges of 1,000.
As for the data in the new transparency report, Twitter’s data shows a 46 percent increase in requests for account information in the first six months of 2014. The U.S. makes up by far the biggest piece of the 2,058 requests, with 1,257 requests for account information.
“The continued rise may be attributed to Twitter’s ongoing international expansion, but also appears to follow the industry trend. As always, we continue to fight to provide notice to affected users when we’re not otherwise prohibited,” the report says.
The volume of requests to remove content also increased considerably, rising 14 percent from the end of 2013, to 432 total requests. The ratio of subpoenas, court orders and search warrants sent to Twitter has remained relatively steady in the two years that the company has been publishing these reports, with with subpoenas generally making up a little more than half of the requests, court orders around 10 percent and search warrants between 20 and 26 percent.