Facebook reveals huge rise in government requests for user data

Every day, governments around the world are making hundreds of requests for users’ data. According to Facebook’s biannual transparency report, the social media giant has received a huge 21% rise in requests for user information from governments globally since the second half of 2016.

Facebook reveals huge rise in government requests for user data

In the US alone, the number rose by 26%, with 96% of these requests being granted. It’s also not just in the US where there’s been a dramatic increase – UK government requests are just as substantial.

In the UK, the government requested the data of 8,167 Facebook users between January and June 2017. The number of requests has almost quadrupled in the past four years.

“We continue to carefully scrutinise each request we receive for account data, whether from an authority in the US, Europe, or elsewhere – to make sure it is legally sufficient,” wrote Chris Sonderby, Facebook’s deputy general counsel, in a blog post. “If a request appears to be deficient or overly broad, we push back and will fight in court if necessary.”

Facebook’s first transparency report from the period between January and June 2013 revealed that the UK government had requested the data of 2,337 users, with 68% of requests being granted. In the report released on Monday, the percentage of requests granted had risen to 92% in the first half of 2017. This was up on the 89% of requests granted in the second half of 2016.

“We would welcome more detail in the report to provide further insight into the government requests and Facebook’s response,” said Camilla Graham Wood, legal officer at Privacy International, to the BBC. “We are also concerned that the type of information disclosed in the transparency report could merely be the tip of the iceberg of what is really going on.” 

The revelations around the transparency report comes after MI5 director-general Andrew Parker told the government earlier this month that there have been nine attacks prevented in the past year, with Rudd highlighting that 83% of ISIS and Al-Qaida content on Facebook is being removed within an hour of publishing.

The UK has faced a number of tragic terrorist incidents in the past year, including attacks in Manchester and London Bridge, with the UK terror threat remaining severe. 


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