Tumblr lets loose its first Transparency Report

The blogging platform's first biannual report detailing government requests for user data shows it fulfilled 76 percent of the 462 requests it received.

Tumblr

In an effort to be fully open, Tumblr unveiled a Transparency Report on Monday that detailed all government requests for user data. This report shows that in 2013, the company received 462 requests and it gave the government data 76 percent of the time. Tumblr said that from now on it will publish these Transparency Reports twice a year.

"Consistent with our core principles, we'd like to shine some light on an issue that is deeply important to both our community and the greater public: government requests for user information," Tumblr wrote in a blog post. "For the sake of transparency, and to ensure that our users are well informed, we're publishing a series of posts on this blog explaining how, when, and why governments requested information about Tumblr users in 2013, and how we responded to those requests."

Yahoo-owned Tumblr is a massive blogging platform -- it hosts more than 170 million blogs worldwide. Despite its size, the company said it has never received any classified requests for user data from the National Security Agency. Rather, the requests are likely to be along the lines of a local sheriff's office looking for messages related to a criminal lawsuit or the IP address of a suspected hacker.

For the most part, Tumblr provided user data on requests involving subpoenas, court orders, and search warrants from state governments and the federal government.

"Tumblr produced blog content in response to 31 percent of domestic requests, account data in response to 84 percent of domestic requests, and nothing at all in response to 16 percent of domestic requests," Tumblr wrote. "In cases where no content or data was produced, the requests may have been withdrawn, or were defective, or we may have objected to the requests on legal grounds."

The blogging platform said it takes great lengths to respect users' privacy and doesn't accept requests that are illegal, vague, or inaccurate. Twenty-four percent of the requests it received fell within these parameters and Tumblr refused to provide data in these cases.

With the Edward Snowden NSA leaks, it's become common knowledge that the US government has asked tech companies for information on users over the years. Several major tech companies have lobbied the government to let them disclose these requests to users. Finally, last week, the US Department of Justice announced that some tech companies would be able to disclose the number of times the NSA issued classified requests for user data. While Tumblr hasn't received any of these requests, it said it is a "fierce advocate" for greater transparency in the national security sphere.

"We will continue to aggressively pursue and support all efforts toward improving our ability to be more transparent for the sake of our users," Tumblr wrote. "Moreover, we encourage all governments to be more forthcoming about the activities they are conducting in the interests of national security. We believe that, while governments have a responsibility to keep us safe, it is possible for them to fulfill that responsibility while also being transparent."

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About the author

Dara Kerr, a freelance journalist based in the Bay Area, is fascinated by robots, supercomputers and Internet memes. When not writing about technology and modernity, she likes to travel to far-off countries.

 

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