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Dropbox Got Up to 249 National Security Requests in First Half of 2014

Dropbox released another transparency report on Thursday and announced that moving forward, it will do so every six months in an effort to keep the public informed of its interactions with authorities.

Dropbox released another transparency report on Thursday and announced that moving forward, it will do so every six months in an effort to keep the public informed of its interactions with authorities.

Bart Volkmer, a lawyer with the company, revealed in a blog post that Dropbox had received 268 request for user information from law enforcement agencies between January and June of this year. In addition, while he hasn’t specified an exact number due to restrictions, the Dropbox representative said there had been 0-249 national security requests.

The company received a total of 120 search warrants and provided content (files stored in users’ accounts) and non-content (subscriber information) in 103 cases. In response to 109 subpoenas, the company hasn’t provided law enforcement with any content, but it has produced subscriber details in 89 cases. While many of the requests came from the United States, the report shows that there have been a total of 37 requests from agencies in other countries.

Volkmer has pointed out that while these numbers are small considering that the company has 300 million customers, Dropbox only complies with such requests if all legal requirements are satisfied. He claims cases in which agencies request too much information or haven’t followed proper procedures are “pushed back.”

The report also shows that the rate of data requests from governments remains steady. An interesting aspect is that agencies keep asking Dropbox not to notify targeted users. However, customers are notified as per the company’s policies, except for cases where there’s a valid court order. A total of 42 users were notified when the file sharing service was presented with search warrants, and 47 individuals were informed in the case of subpoenas.

There haven’t been any requests from governments targeting Dropbox for Business accounts, the company said.

“We’ll push for greater openness, better laws, and more protections for your information. A bill currently in Congress would do just that by reining in bulk data collection by the US government and allowing online services to be more transparent about the government data requests they receive,” Volkmer said. “Another would make it clear that government agencies must get a warrant supported by probable cause before they may demand the contents of user communications. We’ll continue to lend our support for these bills and for real surveillance reform around the world.”

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While many companies publish transparency reports to keep the public informed of requests from governments, interesting details can also emerge from court documents. A perfect example are a series of recently unsealed documents showing that US authorities threatened to fine Yahoo $250,000 a day if it failed to comply with PRISM, the notorious surveillance program whose existence was brought to light last year by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Written By

Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.

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