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In its annual transparency report, Pinterest claims that the United States government was responsible for the majority of requests for user information in 2014.
Of the 41 requests Pinterest received, 39 demands for information in 54 accounts were from the United States. Canada followed with one request for three accounts and Australia with one request for one account.
Both Canada and Australia had their requests denied, but Pinterest ceded to 32 American demands, denying only seven from the US.
“While the vast majority of requests are straightforward and routine, there are some occasions where we think the nature, scope or content of the request is objectionable or defective in some way, in which case, we’ll reject the request,” the report says.
Out of the 39 US demands for user information, 10 came with warrants and a further 29 followed subpoenas. Pinterest stresses that they were not requests for information regarding national security.
Pinterest has not given reasons for demands it caved in on and the ones that it did not. However, looking at its Law Enforcement guidelines, once can come to the conclusion that the US, on some of its demand, Canada and Australia did not meet Pinterest’s guidelines, which are:
For US Law Enforcement
We won’t provide any user’s information unless you obtain a valid subpoena, court order or search warrant (“Law Enforcement Request”). We won’t provide any user’s content unless you obtain a valid search warrant.
For Non-US Law Enforcement
We won’t provide any user information unless you obtain a valid U.S. court order (via the mutual legal assistance treaties or letter rogatory).
This is of course not a decision Pinterest and government officials should be having in secret. Surely users should have a say in what information about them is being handed over to the government.
On its law Enforcement guidelines, Pinterest claims that it does notify people about such incidents. It does however note that it was prohibited by protective order from notifying users 16 times.
“We notify users by providing them with a complete copy of the Law Enforcement Request before producing their information to law enforcement, unless prohibited by court order that is issued in accordance with 18 U.S.C. § 2705(b) or applicable statute. The delayed order notice should specify an approximate delayed notice time period (e.g. 180 days)”.
It is not clear though what if any say at all does a user have. For example, if a user does not want the government to have access to their information, there is little that Pinterest can do especially when that account has been subpoenaed.