Reddit refuses 42% of government data requests

In its first ever transparency report, the social content aggregator Reddit has revealed that it rejected 42 percent of government and civil requests for user data in 2014.

The website said it received a total of 55 requests for information about its users – which included account registration data, log data, and content uploaded -- according to a report it published late Thursday.

It confirmed that it produced information for 58 percent of government and civil requests and 64 percent of U.S. state and federal government requests.

Some 30 percent of the civil and U.S. federal or state government requests received included a court order prohibiting Reddit from notifying users. The company also said it successfully fought back against two civil subpoenas that sought to unmask more than a dozen anonymous users.

"When we receive a request, we make sure it is legitimate and not overbroad, and we provide advance notice to affected users unless prohibited by a court order or where we decide delayed notice is appropriate based on clear criteria described in our privacy policy," Reddit said in its report.


Reddit is fast becoming the Internet's favorite place to share links and has some high-profile fans including the U.S. President.

Barack Obama took to the social networking back in 2012 for a "Ask Me Anything" (AMA) session. Microsoft Founder Bill Gates has taken part in three AMAs; this week he revealed that he believes artificial intelligence is a big threat and shared his thoughts on the digital currency bitcoin.

Reddit also revealed that it had shunned all 5 of the international requests for content to be removed that it received in 2014, saying that it would not turn over user information in response to a request by a foreign government unless a U.S. court requires it.

With the Paris terrorist attacks earlier this month still fresh in people's minds, the subject of government access to user information was one of many key topics discussed at the World Economic Forum in Davos last week.

Marissa Mayer, President and CEO of Yahoo, spoke of a "pendulum swing" at the event, suggesting a change in sentiment is on the horizon.

"I see a pendulum swinging back and forth in public sentiment, where you saw (U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden) swing that pendulum very heavily towards privacy. Now, with some of the recent issues that have arisen, that pendulum has swung back towards security," she said during a seminar at the event.

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Yahoo has said that it received 6,791 data requests from the U.S. government in the first six months of 2014 and just 20 percent of these -- 1,396 -- led to content being disclosed.

Meanwhile, Michael Fries, president, CEO and vice chairman of Liberty Global, said that internet privacy today resembled a "train wreck." He said that government access was not optional or voluntary, but obligatory.

"We do have lawful intercept relationships with the governments in every (country) in which we operate," he said, but added that Liberty Global had an obligation to give a sense of proportionality to the data requests.

The U.K. government has implied that intelligence agencies should be given greater powers to break encrypted communications to nullify the threat of terrorism. On Wednesday, the U.K.'s Guardian newspaper reported that the European Commission were looking at counter-terror plans to collect and store all passenger flight details.