LinkedIn raises concerns over US gov’t data requests

September 20, 2013

Professional networking site LinkedIn has questioned the US government's motivations by not allowing websites to publish the number of security-related data requests they have received.

Releasing its latest transparency report for the first half of the year, the site acknowledged that all other government requests for member data from all over the world are covered by the study.

LinkedIn claims that the restriction imposed by the US government limits its ability to provide complete transparency, which both its members and the public deserve.

"[This] has been the source of great disappointment and frustration to us," LinkedIn said in a statement, adding that it has been campaigning for changes to be made.

One of the main areas of contention is that amendments should be made to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act in a bid to enhance vulnerability management.

This, the statement said, comprises "an outdated patchwork of confusing standards for allowing law enforcement access to personal information held by technology companies".

The US government is therefore being called upon to put laws into place that protect privacy, while keeping up to date with the latest changes to technology and user behaviour.

All data, regardless of whether it is stored in a cloud server or in a desk drawer, should be covered by the US Constitution Fourth Amendment, LinkedIn argued.

At the moment, however, it believes there is some disparity in how the two types of public information are being protected by authorities.

The site offered the example of the government wanting to access contacts included in physical form on an individual's desk – for this, they would have to obtain a search warrant, which it would need probable cause for.

"But when that same rolodex of contacts is stored electronically in the cloud (for instance, your LinkedIn connections), current statutes provide that the US government can access that data without notice to the individual via a subpoena to LinkedIn, which requires the government to show only that the data sought is 'relevant' to its investigation, a much lower standard than probable cause," the statement added.

LinkedIn emphasised that the changes to legislation it is proposing would not only assist its commitment to transparency, but would also maintain national security interests.

As a result, a petition has been filed to the US Court of Appeal, which the site hopes will mean that it can report the actual number of national security letters received, rather than having to round figures up to the nearest 1,000.


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