OPINION: 2012/2013 will go down as the “year of transparency”

OPINION: 2012/2013 will go down as the “year of transparency”

Facebook may have been the last of the world’s biggest internet companies to disclose exactly how many requests for data from governments it received and accepted, but the social network bowing to pressure from campaigners signifies how important transparency is to users in the wake of the PRISM saga.

The social network appears to have finally decided to reveal details of the requests it receives in the wake of PRISM, with Facebook among the US-based technology companies to have been accused by the Guardian newspaper of secretly cooperating with the National Security Agency (NSA).

In publishing its first Global Government Requests Report, Facebook follows the likes of Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo! in making such details public. But this is a relatively new trend. When it comes to the world’s tech powerhouses, 2012/2013 will in future be seen as the “year of transparency”.

Google is, as ever, a pioneer in the sphere, with its Transparency Report having been established in 2009. But with the last installment detailing rapidly increasing government surveillance of citizen’s online activities, and with the PRISM scandal igniting public concern over how big companies deal with the data of users, other major players have belatedly followed in Google’s footsteps.

Twitter took the step in July last year, and this month its second report said the microblogging site was experiencing increasing pressure from governments to release its users’ private information, rising by 40 per cent in the first six months of 2013.

For Microsoft, the landmark day came in March this year, with the company releasing information on how confidential user data is on Skype after pressure from Reporters Without Borders, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and 43 other campaign groups.

Yahoo! took the plunge in June, announcing it received between 12,000 and 13,000 requests from the the US government’s National Security Agency (NSA) in the preceding six months and promising a full transparency report soon.

With Facebook becoming the last major giant to jump on the transparency bandwagon, and with three other tech titans having made the commitment in the last year, it can truly be said that 2012/2013 was the year transparency finally became a true commitment for the world’s biggest internet firms.

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