Is the US government asking too much of Facebook?

The social networking giant received almost twice as many classified national security demands as the year before.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor

(Image: file photo)

Facebook has complied with more than 81 percent of all demands for user data by US law enforcement.

The social networking giant's latest transparency report released Thursday showed that the US had one of the highest percentage of requests where some user data was produced.

US authorities sought more data during the second-half of 2015 than any other requesting country.

Breaking that down, most requests came from search warrants, representing a total of 11,128 requests or 57 percent of all demands. The company complied with 85 percent of those requests.For the US, the company received 19,235 demands from the US government affecting 30,041 users or accounts.

Facebook also received 314 court orders for stored messages, 601 court orders for ongoing investigations, 964 pen register requests for real-time communication records, and 85 wiretaps for real-time content.

On cases relating to national security, tech companies remain subject to heavy reporting restrictions -- such as reporting the number of secret demands in bands between zero and 500 requests.

For the six-month period, Facebook said it had between zero and 499 national security letters (NSLs). These subpoena-like demands aren't authorized by a judge, but compels a company to turn over data on national security grounds. Those who receive a national security letter are typically gagged from telling the person whose data is in question.

But tech companies are still subject to a six-month delay in reporting secret national security demands from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court, which are typically served on companies to hand over data on foreign nationals for later inspection by the intelligence services.

For the most recent reporting period -- the first-half of 2015 -- the company saw a significant spike in secret orders for content, up by almost double from the previous quarter.

The company said it received between 500 and 999 requests for user content under FISA affecting between 13,500 and 13,999 accounts.

There were fewer than 500 non-content requests under FISA for the same period.

In a blog post, Chris Sonderby, deputy general counsel, said that about 60 percent of all requests received for user data from US authorities "contained a non-disclosure order that prohibited us from notifying the user."

It's not clear what the reason for the spike in FISA requests.

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