“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,” the company wrote when it released the report. The report quantifies user data requests from governments around the world, including information on:
- Countries that have requested information about Facebook users
- The number of requests made by each of those countries
- How many users or user accounts were included in those requests
- The percentage of requests for which Facebook was required by law to disclose data
Global Government Requests Report – User Data
The report covers all requests made during the first six months of 2013, through June 30th. Some of these government queries were related to criminal cases like robberies, kidnappings, and even national security matters, where information was needed to aid ongoing investigations. That information included basic user information, IP address logs, and post content.
Looking at the data for each country below, it’s interesting to note that the United States made many more user data requests than any other country; While the U.S. made between 11 and 12 thousand requests, the next-highest requester, India, 3245 requests, and the third-highest, the United Kingdom, just 1,975. Somehow major powers like Russia, Egypt, and Japan made under 10 requests each!
Facebook uses the legal means available to limit the amount of user information handed over to governments. The company said,
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. 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.”
Learn more about Facebook’s approach to government data requests here, and look out for more in the future, as Facebook intends to release these reports regularly.