Facebook, Microsoft Share Some Numbers on Government Requests for Information
Following reports that they have complied with a broad government spying program, technology companies have begun releasing more information about the national security-related requests for user information made by the federal government.
Facebook published a statement on its blog late Friday which gave a general idea of how many requests for information it received from the government in the second half of last year. Including national security letters, the total number of requests was between 9,000 and 10,000, relating to between 18,000 and 19,000 accounts.
Later on Friday Microsoft posted a similar statement , saying it received between 6,000 and 7,000 criminal and national security warrants, subpoenas and orders affecting between 31,000 and 32,000 consumer accounts in the U.S. The company said it was forbidden from saying whether any of these were FISA orders, but if any were, they would be included in that total.
Both companies stressed that even the overall numbers of requests were tiny in comparison to their user bases. The number of national security-related requests likely make up a relatively small proportion of these requests. According to Ted Ullyot, Facebook's general counsel:
|With more than 1.1 billion monthly active users worldwide, this means that a tiny fraction of one percent of our user accounts were the subject of any kind of U.S. state, local, or federal U.S. government request (including criminal and national security-related requests) in the past six months. We hope this helps put into perspective the numbers involved, and lays to rest some of the hyperbolic and false assertions in some recent press accounts about the frequency and scope of the data requests that we receive.
John Frank, Microsoft's deputy general counsel, wrote that what the government had asked for was far more modest than the general monitoring program described by the Guardian and Washington Post last week.
“We have not received any national security orders of the type that Verizon was reported to have received that required Verizon to provide business records about U.S. customers,” he wrote.
The companies named as participants in the Prism spying program have been pushing the government to allow them to release more information about their level of cooperation, presumably to counter reports that they believe have been blown out of proportion. Earlier in the week, Google said it received between 0 and 999 national security letters related to between 1,000 and 1,999 accounts in all of 2012.
On All Things D, Google argued that the information released by Facebook was inadequate. A company spokesperson told the blog:
|We have always believed that it's important to differentiate between different types of government requests. We already publish criminal requests separately from National Security Letters. Lumping the two categories together would be a step back for users. Our request to the government is clear: to be able to publish aggregate numbers of national security requests, including FISA disclosures, separately.
Both Google and Twitter have released transparency reports in the past, but they have not discussed national security letters. Still, these reports have gone further than Friday's disclosures in one key way: they've said how often the companies have complied with the government's requests for information. In 2012, Google says it complied with 88 percent to 90 percent of government requests for user data from the United States; Twitter says it did so between 69 percent and 75 percent of the time.
While Facebook's statement did not include anything on this, the Wall Street Journal reported that the company had shared at least some information 79 percent of the time.
Bellevue police credits community in the arrest of 38 burglars in 6 months
BELLEVUE, Wash. — Bellevue police announced that they have arrested at least 38 burglars in the last six months, and they credit the help of the community for nabbing them.
According to police, out of the 38 arrested, 24 of them were interrupted by a witness or the victims themselves.
Last year during the same time, 36 burglars were captured.
"Our alert community members calling when they see someone/something suspicious, providing good descriptions and the quick response from our police officers have led to the apprehension of several burglary suspects. This is what community policing is all about. I am proud of our community's commitment to watch out for each other and of our officer's commitment to provide exceptional law enforcement," said Bellevue Police Chief Linda Pillo.
Bellevue police said most of the burglars were caught running out of homes with stolen items and officers in the area captured them quickly.
Baltimore police form new advisory council on LGBT issues
Goals to improve relations with community, atmosphere for gay officers.
by Kevin Rector, The Baltimore Sun
Making good on a promise by Baltimore police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts after the severe beating of a gay East Baltimore man, the city Police Department announced Friday a special advisory council to help improve its relations with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
The panel of activists, civil rights advocates and attorneys also plans to work to improve the atmosphere for gay and transgendered officers within the Police Department as it increases efforts to recruit from that community.
"More times than not, we find the most vulnerable communities throughout the city are the communities that have the most fractured relationships with the Police Department," said Alvin Gillard, co-chair of the council and director of the city's Office of Civil Rights and Wage Enforcement. "Until now, we haven't invested the appropriate resources to develop the trust."
Tensions have long existed nationally between police departments and gay communities, dating to wholesale arrests of gay bar patrons in the 1950s and 1960s and continuing to more recent allegations of law enforcement mistreating transgender crime victims.
High-profile attacks, including the Christmas Day beating of Kenni Shaw in his East Baltimore neighborhood of Oliver, have revived questions about safety and the ability of police to aggressively investigate hate crimes.
Sgt. Eric Kowalczyk, the Police Department's liaison to the LGBT community, said Shaw's beating "created a sense of urgency" to create the new panel after Batts had floated the idea days before. Batts, who created a similar committee as police commissioner of Long Beach, Calif., appeared at a gay community rally days after Shaw's attack and promised his support.
In Baltimore, some activists say past police efforts have been more talk than turning points. Gillard said the new advisory council understands that and is intent on real, tangible change.
"It's great the commissioner has made this commitment, but I think the devil is really in the details," he said. "We need to make sure rhetoric turns into action in the community."
The 10-person advisory council, announced as the city prepares for its annual gay pride celebration this weekend, has been taking shape for months and is now in the process of compiling best practices for LGBT outreach from law enforcement agencies across the country, Gillard said. When that process is complete, the group will begin proposing new policies and training standards for Batts to consider implementing.
Roddrick Colvin, an associate professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and author of the new book "Gay and Lesbian Cops: Diversity and Effective Policing," applauded the council's creation as a positive step for the department and the residents it polices.
"Improved policing comes from having a diverse police force," he said. "So if you want to be able to address some of the unique issues — whether they be hate crimes or some other issue — within the gay community, it's good to have officers who are at least culturally competent. And if you can get gay and lesbian officers, all the better."
In creating the council, Batts bolsters continuing efforts within the department to improve ties to the gay community — a nationwide trend among departments where liaison positions have led to LGBT police associations and support groups, Colvin said.
"The inclination is to think that this is happening in places like Baltimore, New York and Chicago, but you can find liaison officers all over the place, in Fargo, N.D., and in Texas," he said. "Departments all over the place are thinking about this."
Baltimore has had a LGBT task force in the past, and already has an LGBT training curriculum for officers. In his role, Kowalczyk, who has been openly gay in the department for more than a decade, has sought to maintain good ties with the gay community.
Now the department has high hopes for even more progress, he said.
Everyday interactions with the gay community, Batts and others believe, will encourage members to share more information with police when crimes occur. The council also plans to recommend policies to address ingrained homophobia in the department, which has left some officers uneasy about coming out.
"The silence is deafening," Gillard said. "We're hearing [officers] don't want to step out, don't want to be vocal, because it might come back to haunt them."
Aaron Merki, fellow co-chair and executive director of the Free State Legal Project, a nonprofit that provides pro bono legal services to low-income Marylanders, said that while many officers are open-minded, difficulties remain.
"They may not be hateful people, but they don't know how to interact with members of the LGBT community, particularly transgender people, often transgender sex workers, transgender women," Merki said.
Kowalczyk said the department's newly planned efforts to recruit gay and transgendered officers will help.
"If you look back historically at the integration of African-American officers into the department and female officers into the department and now LGBT officers into the department, there is a natural progression of welcoming and acceptance," he said. "Things have become progressively easier, but it's a hearts-and-minds campaign."
In the community, Merki and Kowalczyk said the council also plans to encourage more meet-and-greet opportunities between police leadership, including Batts, and the gay community. Such meetings can spur action to back up rhetoric heard at rallies and vigils, they said.
Last summer, two gay men, Lawrence R. Peterson and Joseph Alexander Ulrich Jr., were the victims of a double-shooting in Mid-Town. Ulrich was killed and Peterson was badly wounded. In April, Kelly Young, a transgender woman, was slain in East Baltimore.
None of the incidents have been classified as hate crimes, but Kowalczyk has been kept apprised of the investigations. Arrests have been made in both Shaw's beating and in the shooting of Ulrich and Peterson, with trials pending in both cases. No arrest has been made in Young's case.
Family and friends of Young, who was 29, have pushed for an arrest in the case. Young's friends, including Sade Harrison, a neighbor who thought of Young as a daughter, say they have been left with unanswered questions.
Kowalczyk said detectives are working hard and that he's encouraged by the involvement of the transgender community, where distrust often creates silence. An arrest is "going to take the community's help," he said.
Shaw believes he was attacked because he is gay. He says five men jumped him outside a liquor store in Oliver. Only one was arrested. Shaw said he has been threatened multiple times since then and has spent months under witness protection.
At first, people offered him all kinds of support, he said. Police escorted him back to his apartment on the day of the rally so he could collect some clothes.
But now, months later, he said much of the support has faded away. He's working as a cosmetologist, trying to get by. He still has spasms in his face.
Kowalczyk says he has continued to reach out to Shaw, but Shaw said he has become discouraged by the way his case has been handled and wants to move on.
"I don't want to be suppressed over this incident, over a hate crime that wasn't even labeled a hate crime," he said.
Shaw plans to enjoy the Baltimore Pride celebration this weekend and said that the new advisory council "sounds encouraging." Victims of crime need help from police who are understanding, he said.
"It's going to be a forever process for me," he said of recovering from the attack. "I'm just basically picking up the pieces to my puzzle."
LGBT Police Advisory Council Members
•Alvin Gillard (co-chair), director, Office of Civil Rights & Wage Enforcement
•Aaron Merki (co-chair), executive director, Free State Legal Project
•Sarah Avery, sergeant, Baltimore Police Department
•Shannon E. Avery, associate judge, District Court of Maryland, Baltimore
•Anthony W. Batts, commissioner, Baltimore Police Department
•Carrie Evans, executive director, Equality Maryland
•Eric Kowalczyk, sergeant, Baltimore Police Department
•Demetrius Mallisham, liaison, Office of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake
•Carlton R. Smith, president and founder, Baltimore Black Pride
• Owen Smith , field organizer, Equality Maryland