Facebook released a report that shows the number of requests on its users the government was making and the number of user accounts on which inquiries are being made. The social network went ahead to list the percentage of requests that were honored.
The largest number of request was on US accounts with the first half or 2013 having logged between 11,000 and 12,000 requests for facebook user data which involved between 20,000 to 21,000 accounts.
India came in second place with 3,245 requests, UK in 3rd with 1,975 requests and Germany in the fourth position with 1886 requests.
Such data isn’t surprising following previous leaks by Snowden about the US government operative known as “PRISM” which involves surveillance of users’ accounts.
Facebook’s transparency is a big step forward to clear its name, and 25,000 request from all governments might seem a small figure but remember Facebook isn’t the only way governments collect data.
Below is the Statement from Facebook:
Transparency and trust are core values at Facebook. We strive to embody them in all aspects of our services, including our approach to responding to government data requests. We want to make sure that the people who use our service understand the nature and extent of the requests we receive and the strict policies and processes we have in place to handle them.
We are pleased to release our first Global Government Requests Report, which details the following:The report details the following:
- Which countries requested information from Facebook about our users
- The number of requests received from each of those countries
- The number of users/user accounts specified in those requests
- The percentage of these requests in which we were required by law to disclose at least some data
The report covers the first 6 months of 2013, ending June 30.
As we have made clear in recent weeks, we have stringent processes in place to handle all government data requests. We believe this process protects the data of the people who use our service, and requires governments to meet a very high legal bar with each individual request in order to receive any information about any of our users. We scrutinize each request for legal sufficiency under our terms and the strict letter of the law, and require a detailed description of the legal and factual bases for each request. We fight many of these requests, pushing back when we find legal deficiencies and narrowing the scope of overly broad or vague requests. When we are required to comply with a particular request, we frequently share only basic user information, such as name.
More details about our approach to responding to government requests can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/safety/groups/law/guidelines/.
We hope this report will be useful to our users in the ongoing debate about the proper standards for government requests for user information in official investigations. And while we view this compilation as an important first report – it will not be our last. In coming reports, we hope to be able to provide even more information about the requests we receive from law enforcement authorities.
As we have said many times, we believe that while governments have an important responsibility to keep people safe, it is possible to do so while also being transparent. Government transparency and public safety are not mutually exclusive ideals. Each can exist simultaneously in free and open societies, and they help make us stronger. We strongly encourage all governments to provide greater transparency about their efforts aimed at keeping the public safe, and we will continue to be aggressive advocates for greater disclosure.
– Colin Stretch, Facebook General Counsel