National Security Issues

Starting in May 2013, an unprecedented series of disclosures revealed that the NSA and other intelligence agencies have been conducting vast and clandestine electronic surveillance programs in the U.S. and abroad. These disclosures have generated tremendous public interest in, and vigorous debate about, how societies should strike the proper balance between protecting national security and respecting civil liberties.

Amid this controversy, many of you have asked whether Tumblr has received national security requests targeting our users, such as National Security Letters (FBI-issued requests for subscriber information), or Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (“FISA”) orders (orders issued in classified court proceedings, requiring companies to provide user information in national security investigations).

As of the date of publication of this report, we have never received a National Security Letter, FISA order, or any other classified request for user information.

Nonetheless, we remain fierce advocates for greater transparency in the national security sphere. We’re co-signatories to a joint letter sent to the White House and ranking members of Congress, asking our government to allow technology companies to be more transparent about national security-related requests they receive. We also strongly support the transparency efforts of companies that have fielded such classified requests for user information, including Yahoo, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft. They have recently reached an agreement with the United States Department of Justice which allows online service providers to publish more detailed statistics about requests they receive from the FISA Court (check out CNETWired, and Politico for more on this story). These companies have also issued an open letter to Washington urging reforms to ensure that government surveillance efforts are clearly restricted by law, proportionate to the risks, transparent, and subject to independent oversight.  

We will continue to aggressively pursue and support all efforts toward improving our ability to be more transparent for the sake of our users. Moreover, we encourage all governments to be more forthcoming about the activities they are conducting in the interests of national security. We believe that, while governments have a responsibility to keep us safe, it is possible for them to fulfill that responsibility while also being transparent.

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