The social networking website Facebook says it received between 9,000 and 10,000 requests for user data from US government entities in the last six months of 2012.
The Internet giant said on Friday that the request, which involved 18,000 to 19,000 of its users’ accounts, covered issues from minor crime to national security.
The disclosure comes after the British daily The Guardian on June 6 revealed a top secret US court order that allows the National Security Agency (NSA) to collect data on millions of Americans who are customers of the major US phone company, Verizon.
Also on June 9, former CIA employee Edward Snowden, leaked documents exposing the widespread surveillance of US communications under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), as well as a separate NSA program code-named PRISM that allows the government to access private conversations conducted over Facebook, Google, Skype and other services.
Facebook’s General Counsel Ted Ullyot wrote on the company’s blog that the requests included topics “from things like a local sheriff trying to find a missing child, to a federal marshal tracking a fugitive, to a police department investigating an assault, to a national security official investigating a terrorist threat.”
Meanwhile, he declined to say to what extent the company had met the requests, but noted that Facebook had “aggressively” safeguarded its users’ data.
“We frequently reject such requests outright, or require the government to substantially scale down its requests, or simply give the government much less data than it has requested,” he added.
Facebook was not permitted to release how many orders it received from a particular agency or on a particular subject.
The Washington Post also on June 6 reported that the NSA had direct access to Internet servers, saying their source, a career intelligence officer, was horrified of the capabilities of the systems used by the top US spy agency.
The new revelation comes as the administration of US President Barack Obama has already come under fire for secretly obtaining the phone records of the Associated Press journalists as well as the emails and phone records of a Fox News Channel reporter.