Government data requests increase

For the first half of 2013, Australian government agents made 1219 requests to access the data of Microsoft Hotmail and Outlook users. Of these requests, information such as email address, name, location and IP address were handed over.

Globally, Microsoft received 37,000 requests for data and provided information in 80 per cent of cases, while 50 requests led to the sharing of ‘content data’ which includes emails, photos and documents from those accounts.

Microsoft isn’t the only company receiving these requests. In the first half of 2013, Yahoo received 704 requests, Facebook received 546 and Twitter 58.

In a statement meant to reassure users, Microsoft said that only one in every 10,000 users were affected by requests during the reporting period.

Read more from the The Sydney Morning Herald.

Opinion: Should you be worried?

Year-on-year we’re seeing an increasing number of requests for personal data from government agents, both in Australia and throughout the world. Using the prime example of the National Security Agency (NSA) in America, government-contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that nine companies had turned over to the agency. While government agencies aren’t releasing data on how many requests are made and by whom, these companies are now trying to show transparency by releasing the request data every six months.

There are two sides to any story but, at the moment, we only see the innocent users who have their personal data and information invaded by government agents. What we don’t see are the people arrested for cyber bullying, for making threats against people’s lives online, for using email accounts to traffic drugs and those whose lives have been saved after making a serious suggestion that they were going to take their own life.

I haven’t committed a crime or even said something online that would justify my personal data being requested by government agents, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not worried about them invading my privacy in future years. Text messages, online chat logs via Facebook chat and even emails can all be used against you years down the road. If you have something to say which is confidential or could be classified as sensitive information, pick up your phone because, without a wire tap, it’s a conversation which is guaranteed to be ‘forgotten’ at the end of the call.

Are you worried about how much data social media networks, email providers and even news websites know about you? Do you ever provide a fake name to avoid building an online profile?

Written by Drew

Starting out as a week of work experience in 2005 while studying his Bachelor of Business at Swinburne University, Drew has never left his post and has been with the company ever since, working on the websites digital needs. Drew has a passion for all things technology which is only rivalled for his love of all things sport (watching, not playing).
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