Facebook released its Government Data Requests report, covering the first half of 2013. The country with the most requests by far is the US. India is next in line and then several European countries follow: Germany, France, UK and Italy.
Yet none of the volume of these “next in order” countries even begins to approach the level of the US, which had up to 12,000 data requests from 21,000 user accounts. Below is a condensed version of Facebook’s table, which is available in its entirety in the post.
Here’s Facebook’s statement about the nature of these requests and its procedure for granting them:
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.
Hong Kong and Iceland saw 100 percent of their single requests granted. Taiwan and Albania otherwise saw the highest percentage of requests allowed, followed by the US, Pakistan and Finland in that order.
While Google, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo and others are starting to provide more visibility on government requests for information or censorship it’s difficult to know how to respond from a user perspective. Should users carry on trusting in the process or should they opt-out of these services to protect their privacy? For most people the latter is next-to-impossible these days.
It’s laudable that the major internet companies are being more “transparent.” However we need more than that. We need to know when these requests step outside the law. And we need tools, paths and mechanisms to individually and collectively resist unlawful attempts to access our information.
Although it hasn’t yet risen to this level, there will probably be a robust market in the future for third party services that can thwart data mining and corporate or government spying.