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Australia is third most investigated country on Twitter: Transparency Report

David Braue | Aug. 2, 2013
Australian authorities have requested private data from Twitter about users more than any other country except the United States and Japan, according to the company's latest transparency figures.

Australian authorities have requested private data from Twitter about users more than any other country except the United States and Japan, according to the company's latest transparency figures.

The latest Twitter Transparency Report said that during the first half of this year the country's law-enforcement agencies requested personally identifiable information on 58 users or accounts belonging to Australians, spread across fewer than ten separate user information requests.

That made Australia far from the least prolific requester of information, but each of its requests covered a large number of people: Australia's total of 58 users investigated was behind the US (1319 users in 902 requests) and Japan (103 users in 87 requests), with Brazil (44 users in 22 requests), France (35 users in 18 requests) and the UK (29 users in 26 requests) comprising the top 6 countries.

The figures for Australia were particularly high given the country's relatively small population (22.3 million) compared with the US (311.6 million), Brazil (196.7 million) Japan (127.8 million), and even France (65.4 million).

As well as its high per-capita request rate, Australian requests for data were relatively successful, with 25 per cent resulting in the production of some or all of the requested information. By comparison, Brazil enjoyed 32 per cent success, Japan 16 per cent, the UK 15 per cent, and France 11 per cent. Requests by the US government produced some or all of the requested information fully 67 per cent of the time.

Overall, Twitter handled 1157 information requests in the first half of the year, compared with 1009 requests the previous half and 849 in the year-ago half.

Improving transparency of information requests has become a sticking point for Twitter, which has come front and centre in discussions about increasing government surveillance of online information. In a blog post on the launch of the latest report, the company said it was "steadfastly committed to being transparent" about government takedown orders and had 'un-withheld' content for the first time this year.

"An important conversation has begun about the extent to which companies should be allowed to publish information regarding national security requests," the company wrote. "We have joined forces with industry peers and civil liberty groups to insist that the United States government allow for increased transparency into these secret orders."

"We believe it's important to be able to publish numbers of national security requests - including FISA disclosures - separately from non-secret requests. Unfortunately, we are still not able to include such metrics."

That didn't stop Twitter from publishing information on other types of requests. Cease-and-desist requests for content removal rose dramatically, from just 6 in the first half of 2012 to 60 in the first half of this year. However, on this metric Australia was barely on the charts, with just two removal requests from government agencies or police and none of those actually resulting in withheld content.

 

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