Thanks to Edward Snowden, all of the major tech companies now release government data requests. Before Snowden released information on PRISM and the public found out how integrated our government was with the tech giants central server, there were not many tech companies that released reports to let people know how many times the government asked for information.
Google has always released a transparency report that lists all information the government has requested during the course of the year.
Major tech companies now release government data requests annually. They were not always so willing to release these reports. There were many allegations against these large tech companies for releasing this data, however these allegations have always been denied before the Snowden leaks.
Yahoo, Apple, and FaceBook have all released transparency reports for the first time this fall. The government has placed restrictions on how this information is to be released. Google can no longer separate the different types of requests from the government. They used to tally up the National Security Letters (NSL’s) separately from other requests. The government no longer allows this detail of information to be passed in these reports.
These new rules affect all transparency reports and will make reporting much less detailed and more difficult to analyze accurately. This will make statistics less accurate and give conspiracy theorist more to talk about.
Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T, Sprint, Cricket, U.S. Cellular, and C-Spire have also made their requests public. You can see from the graph below that these numbers seriously outweigh the requests from other tech giants. This is most likely the result of how much information is sent over mobile networks. By reviewing someone’s smart phone activity you can learn a large amount about a person and their activities.
The amount of information that can be gathered from wireless carriers is scary. Cell phone tower dumps can reveal who is in the vicinity of a particular cell tower. This is useful to law enforcement if they are trying to track down an individual they are having difficulty finding.