The data’s subject to a six month reporting delay, and the providers still can’t be specific about the number of requests.
In separate reports, Google, Yahoo, Facebook and Microsoft have revealed how many national security demands they receive. None of them can be entirely candid, since there are constraints on the information they divulge. They’re unable to disclose precise numbers or types of request, and the data is subject to a six month delay before it can be reported.
Yahoo reports content requests for somewhere between 30,000 to 40,000 user accounts, from January to June 2013. Google says it received somewhere between 9,000 to 10,000 demands in the same period. Microsoft had less than 1,000, and Facebook also received less than 1,000 demands.
Google and Yahoo’s figure is higher because some of the requests affected more than one account. Taking Google as an example, in July to December 2012 it reports 0-999 requests, but those requests affected somewhere between 12,000 to 13,000 accounts. According to Yahoo, this can happen when a user has more than one account, or when the request names an account that does not, in fact, exist. Even if there is no account, the request is still part of the count.
“Only a fraction of a percent of our users are affected by these orders,” says Microsoft’s Brad Smith. “In short, this means that we have not received the type of bulk data requests that are commonly discussed publicly regarding telephone records.” Of course, that does assume the NSA bothers to send out an order. The history of PRISM, and the continuing reveals to date, seems to indicate that going through channels isn’t something the NSA excels at.