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Facebook does Prism damage control with first government request report

Facebook received more than 25,000 requests from governments about its users during the first half of 2013, with nearly half of those requests coming from U.S. law enforcement and related agencies, the company said.
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U.S. agencies made 11,000 to 12,000 requests for Facebook user information during the first six months of the year, with the rest of the world’s governments making about 14,600 requests, Facebook said in its first global government requests report, released Tuesday.

Date Requests:

Country

Total Requests

Users / Accounts requested

Percentage of requests where some data produced

Albania 6 12

83 %

Argentina 152 218

27 %

Australia 546 601

64 %

Austria 35 41

17 %

Bangladesh 1 12

0 %

Barbados 3 3

0 %

Belgium 150 169

70 %

Bosnia and Herzegovina 4 11

25 %

Botswana 3 7

0 %

Brazil 715 857

33 %

Bulgaria 1 1

0 %

Cambodia 1 1

0 %

Canada 192 219

44 %

Chile 215 340

68 %

Colombia 27 41

15 %

Costa Rica 4 6

0 %

Croatia 2 2

0 %

Cyprus 3 4

33 %

Czech Republic 10 13

60 %

Denmark 11 11

55 %

Ecuador 2 3

0 %

Egypt 8 11

0 %

El Salvador 2 2

0 %

Finland 12 15

75 %

France 1,547 1,598

39 %

Germany 1,886 2,068

37 %

Greece 122 141

54 %

Hong Kong 1 1

100 %

Hungary 25 24

36 %

Iceland 1 1

100 %

India 3,245 4,144

50 %

Ireland 34 40

71 %

Israel 113 132

50 %

Italy 1,705 2,306

53 %

Ivory Coast 4 4

0 %

Japan 1 1

0 %

Kosovo 2 11

0 %

Lithuania 6 7

17 %

Macedonia 9 11

33 %

Malaysia 7 197

0 %

Malta 89 97

60 %

Mexico 78 127

37 %

Mongolia 2 2

0 %

Montenegro 2 2

0 %

Nepal 3 3

33 %

Netherlands 11 15

36 %

New Zealand 106 119

58 %

Norway 16 16

31 %

Pakistan 35 47

77 %

Panama 2 2

0 %

Peru 13 14

15 %

Philippines 4 4

25 %

Poland 233 158

9 %

Portugal 177 213

42 %

Qatar 3 3

0 %

Romania 16 36

63 %

Russia 1 1

0 %

Serbia 1 1

0 %

Singapore 107 117

70 %

Slovenia 6 8

50 %

South Africa 14 9

0 %

South Korea 7 15

14 %

Spain 479 715

51 %

Sweden 54 66

54 %

Switzerland 32 36

13 %

Taiwan 229 329

84 %

Thailand 2 5

0 %

Turkey 96 170

47 %

Uganda 1 1

0 %

United Kingdom 1,975 2,337

68 %

United States 11,000 – 12,000 20,000 – 21,000

79 %

 
Other countries with high numbers of requests: India with 3,245, the U.K. with 1,975, Germany with 1,886, and Italy with 1,705.

The “vast majority” of the requests related to criminal cases, Colin Stretch, Facebook’s general counsel, wrote in the report. In many cases, the requests seek basic subscriber information, such as name and length of membership, while in other cases, law enforcement officials seek IP addresses or account content, he wrote.

Facebook doesn’t honor every request. In the U.S., Facebook provided some information in response to 79 percent of the requests, while in the U.K., it provided some information in 68 percent. The percentage was much lower for several countries. For example, Facebook provided information in response to just 27 percent of Argentina’s 152 requests and 39 percent of France’s 1,547 requests.

“We have stringent processes in place to handle all government data requests,” Stretch wrote. “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 fight many of these requests, pushing back when we find legal deficiencies and narrowing the scope of overly broad or vague requests.”

Google and some other tech companies have released similar reports about government requests. Google began releasing a government data transparency report in 2009; in the second half of 2012, Google received more than 21,000 requests about its users.

Privacy International, a U.K.-based privacy group, applauded Facebook for releasing the numbers, but said recent leaks about data collection at the U.S. National Security Agency show that these kinds of transparency reports have limited use.

“We are left with a disturbingly hollow feeling regarding Facebook’s gesture, and it has little to do with Facebook itself,” the group said in a blog post. “Since [the NSA documents] have been published and analysed, the veil has been lifted on what information governments actually collect about us.”

The Facebook report only details lawful data requests, the group said. “We are now aware of a terrifying reality – that governments don’t necessarily need intermediaries like Facebook, Google, and Microsoft to get our data,” it added. “They can intercept it over undersea cables, through secret court orders, and through intelligence sharing.”

 

 

Originally published on IDG News Service (Washington Bureau). Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2017 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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