Facebook admits government data requests rose by nearly a quarter

Facebook received 15,433 total requests in the U.S. alone during the first half of 2014, pertaining to data about 23,667 accounts.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

Being the world's largest social network, Facebook is one of the prime feeding grounds for data -- and inevitably requests from federal agencies for said data.

According to Facebook's latest transparency report published on Tuesday, the Menlo Park, Calif.-based company received 34,946 requests for data during the first six months of 2014.

That translates to a 24 percent uptick from the second half of 2013, nearly matched by a 19 percent increase in the amount of content restricted due to local laws where Facebook operates.

Facebook's deputy general counsel Chris Sonderby promised in the report that the company pushes "back hard" against any and all requests before forking over data -- if at all.

In the United States, for example, Facebook received 15,433 total requests during the first half of 2014, pertaining to data about 23,667 accounts. Facebook responded with data to 80.15 percent of these requests.

Search warrants were the most common type of request in the U.S. with 7,676 total requests. Facebook complied with data to 84.35 percent of these filings.

Sonderby highlighted that Facebook challenged bulk search warrants issued by a court in New York demanding data for 400 accounts alone, which he described as an "unprecedented request" and the largest the social media brand had ever seen.

"We’ve argued that these overly broad warrants violate the privacy rights of the people on Facebook and ignore constitutional safeguards against unreasonable searches and seizures," Sonderby wrote. "Despite a setback in the lower court, we’re aggressively pursuing an appeal to a higher court to invalidate these sweeping warrants and to force the government to return the data it has seized."

That case is still tied up and awaiting decision by a New York appellate court later this year.

Sonderby also noted that Facebook updated information regarding national security requests submitted under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and through National Security Letters.

However, this data remains regulated to only being revealed in allotments of 1,000 or more. Thus, Facebook could only offer the cryptic response of receiving "0 to 999" total requests in the United States and responded to "0 to 999" of them.

Facebook had approximately 1.35 billion monthly active users as of late September, based on the company's most recent earnings report published in October.

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