What Does the Government Want with LinkedIn's Data?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013 - 10:39 AM

The LinkedIn logo. (Flickr user: Jerry Luk)

Yesterday, LinkedIn's general counsel published a letter to the site's users expressing frustration that the company's not allowed to disclose the number of national security-related data requests it receives each year. 

In its biannual transparency report, LinkedIn disclosed data requests the company received that weren't national security related - subpoenas from local law enforcement, for instance. But by law, the company can't disclose how many national security data requests they received, and they're arguing for the right to do so.

As reflected in a letter to the Director and General Counsel of the FBI we sent today, we have been unable to convince the U.S. government that their requirements are not legally warranted and make no sense, especially as applied to a company like LinkedIn.

Those were my thoughts exactly. Whatever the legal merits of government requests for access to data from sites like Facebook or Google, you can at least imagine how those requests would be useful to law enforcement. People use Facebook and Gmail to communicate privately. But LinkedIn? It's a site for strangers to network professionally. OKCupid for jobs. 

I'm curious. Does this sound like crazy overreach? Or does LinkedIn offer some quiet utility to evildoers that civilians just can't imagine? 


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