Snapchat bares all in transparency report

Largely due to the exposés in the media following Edward Snowden's NSA revelations, there is now great interest in security and privacy. From this sprang a new breed of report - transparency reports detailing the number of data requests legal and governmental agencies made about a particular service.

Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft and Apple are among the companies who have released transparency reports, and the latest name on the list is Snapchat. As with other similar reports there is a limit to what they are able to reveal, but it does show that various agencies showed an interest in no fewer than 666 Snapchat accounts.

The report covers the period November 1, 2014 to February 28, 2015. While it is more usual to wait until six months' of data is available, Snapchat decided to jump the gun slightly "in the interest of transparency." So what does the report tell us? The number involved are actually fairly low.

A total of 375 requests were received, affecting 666 "account identifiers" - which Snapchat points out refers to things such as username, email address, phone number, and it is probably that multiple identifiers relate to the same account. Data was produced in 92 per cent of cases, with search warrants yielding the greatest results - 96 per cent of 172 requests. 89 per cent of 159 subpoenas results in the production of data.

As we're yet to hit the all-important six-month mark, there are no details about the number of FISA and NSL requests, but we do know that a total of 28 data requests were made by international governments. The UK tops the chart with 10 requests (three marked as emergency and seven as other), and France is close behind with nine. Overall, data was only produced in response to 21 per cent of these requests.

Announcing the availability of this first report, Snapchat says that updates will be released twice a year:

We’re excited to announce our first transparency report, a comprehensive look into the data requests we receive from governments around the world. In this report we detail the number and types of requests each government is making of us.

The next report is due in July and will include more information such as "government requests we have received for users’ account information, government demands to remove users’ content, and requests to takedown content for alleged copyright violations".