Pinterest’s First Transparency Report Shows Few Government Data Requests
Looks like the law doesn’t care much about Pinterest.
The social photo sharing network pinned its transparency report to its company blog over the weekend, revealing for the first time the number of requests for data it receives from government agencies.
The most striking thing about the report: You can almost count the number of requests for information on two hands. Pinterest said it received a total of 12 inquiries from the government over the second half of 2013, 11 of which were from local law enforcement. The remaining request came from the Federal government. All of the requests came from United States government agencies.
Pinterest receives far fewer requests compared to other tech giants in the consumer Internet space. Microsoft, for instance, received more than 35,000 requests for user data over the second half of last year. Facebook received somewhere in the range of 15,000.
I’d assume this is for a few reasons. While we don’t know the exact number, last year it had been estimated that Pinterest had more than 70 million users (a number that’s likely higher by now). That’s a mere fraction of the billions of people who use Facebook, Microsoft and Google products on a daily basis.
What’s more, companies differ in the type of content being posted to their services. So, for example, while the type of personal information Facebook and Microsoft users fill out could be helpful to investigators, Pinterest is an entire network composed of photos — often lifestyle images of food, clothing or other consumer items.
In short: The government isn’t much interested in what you like to eat for breakfast.
Pinterest’s disclosure comes amid a climate of tension between tech companies, their users and the United States government, heightened by last year’s revelations from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that the government agency was allegedly hacking links between Internet company data centers to obtain user information.
Since that time, a coalition of tech companies including Google, Yahoo, Twitter and Microsoft have rallied to push the government to ease restrictions on data request disclosures. These companies have also strongly come out against any hacking attempts by government agencies to obtain user information, and have started a site petitioning the U.S. government to reform its surveillance policies.
In the past year, more Internet companies that host troves of data on their users are pushing to produce transparency reports. The idea is, if a company can prove it shares relatively little user account information with outsiders, the general public will view it as more trustworthy. It will also help to repair the damage done to Web companies’ images caused by the fallout that followed Snowden’s government hacking allegations.
It’s sort of a no-brainer for Pinterest, too, as it receives so few requests for data. Though if the company continues to scale over time, we’ll see if that number increases drastically.