Technology giants Apple, Facebook and Microsoft have all revealed details of US government surveillance requests.
Facebook was first to release its figures, stating that the company received between 9,000 and 10,000 requests for data from the US government in the second half of 2012. This covered 18,000-19,000 of its 1.1 billion user accounts worldwide.
Secondly, Microsoft revealed that it received 31,000 requests for data on customers in the second half of 2012.
Apple stated that it had received 4,000-5,000 data requests since December 2012. In those requests, 9,000-10,000 accounts or devices were specified.
The disclosures have been revealed following revelations that the National Security Agency (NSA) had obtained access to the systems of top internet companies – including Facebook, Apple and Microsoft – as part of a previously undisclosed surveillance programme called Prism.
The companies had all urged the US government to allow them to reveal these data requests to counter the accusations that they had provided the government with access as part of the NSA programme.
Apple stated: “We do not provide any government agency with direct access to our servers, and any government agency requesting customer content must get a court order.”
The company said in its statement that each request was evaluated by its legal team and it intended to “deliver the narrowest possible set of information to the authorities”. Apple also said that if it saw inconsistencies in a request, it would refuse to grant it.
The firms stated that the majority of these requests were from police. Apple also said that some of its requests were searches for missing children, locating patients with Alzheimer's disease or preventing suicides.