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Amazon discloses transparency report for first time

The e-commerce company reveals the number of government requests for data it received so far this year, joining a growing list of firms releasing such information.

Amazon disclosed Friday it received 813 subpoenas and 25 search warrants in the first half of the year. John Macdougall/Getty Images

Amazon for the first time has released a report on the number of government data requests it receives, offering the public more information on how often it hands over its customers' data to judges and law enforcement agencies.

The e-commerce company, which runs the largest public cloud-infrastructure business in the world, hadn't previously released a biannual transparency report, despite repeated criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union and the digital rights advocacy group the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Transparency reports publish how often a company receives requests for customer data, such as a subpoena or search warrant, from government bodies, as well as how often that company complies with such requests. These reports have become a tool for providing more information to the public in the wake of leaks from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, which revealed that the US government, in particular, was actively targeting and storing user data.

Amazon, which has a reputation for keeping data about its businesses secret, was late to join the growing list of major tech and telecommunications companies that are now providing these reports. Facebook, for instance, sent out its first biannual report in August 2013. Reddit, meanwhile, joined in January of this year. Apple, Google, AT&T, Yahoo and Verizon also publish these reports.

"Amazon knows customers care deeply about privacy and data security, and we optimize our work to get these issues right for customers," Stephen Schmidt, chief information security officer for the Amazon Web Services cloud-computing business, wrote in a blog post published Friday night that included a link to the biannual report.

An Amazon spokesman confirmed in an email that Friday's report was the first time Amazon had disclosed such information.

Among the details mentioned in the report, Amazon said it received 813 subpoenas from January 1 to May 31 of this year, and fully responded to 542 of them. It received 25 search warrants and fully responded to 13 of them.

In comparison, Facebook disclosed in March that it received a total of 35,051 requests for user data from international governments during the second half of 2014. Reddit received 55 requests for user information for all of 2014.

News of the Amazon report was noted earlier by ZDNet.