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Revealed: NSA Receiving Data of Tens of Thousands of Internet Users

Internet giants Google, Facebook, Yahoo, LinkedIn and Microsoft release new details about government surveillance requests

- Sarah Lazare, staff writer

NSA headquarters at Fort Meade. (Photo: NSA)Every six months, data from tens of thousands of accounts linked to Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Yahoo, and other cyber giants is turned over to the U.S. government at the behest of the secret FISA court.

This is according to information published Monday by tech companies as part of a deal reached with the U.S. Justice Department last week, in what is widely seen as a bid to show they had minimal complicity in the National Security Agency’s Prism spying program that has sparked public outrage.

According to the transparency deal, the companies are prohibited from itemizing the data handed over and must delay their reports by six months — conditions that have been slammed as barriers to real transparency.

Nonetheless, the data that is provided to the public is telling.

Information from Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, LinkedIn, and Facebook reveals that in the first six months of 2013 alone, the NSA requested private data from at least 59,000 user accounts, the Washington Post summarizes.

According to a Yahoo announcement, the company was asked by the the NSA to turn over content from at least 30,000 users during the first six months of 2013. During this same period, Facebook was asked to turn over data from at least 5,000 users, according to a post from the corporation. Microsoft was asked to hand over info from at least 15,000 users during this period.

However, Brad Smith, General Counsel & Executive Vice President, Legal & Corporate Affairs, for Microsoft points out that NSA spying may be even more vast than these numbers let on. "Since the Washington Post reported in October about the purported hacking of cables running between data centers of some of our competitors, this has been and remains a major concern across the tech sector," he writes.

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