​Governments are asking Facebook for a lot more user account data

Facebook received 30,000 more government requests for user data than Google
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Video: Does Facebook need to handle security more like a defense contractor?

The number of user data requests Facebook received from governments around the world in first half of 2017 reached an all time high of 78,890, up 21 percent on the 64,279 requests it received in the second half of 2016.

The social network revealed the figure in its Transparency Report covering January to June 2017. Previously it was called the Government Requests Report, but it's since been renamed as it now also includes data regarding intellectual property requests.

The largest source of user data requests came from the US, where the government served Facebook 32,716 requests for data from 52,280 accounts. The figure was up from 26,014 requests concerning 41,492 accounts in the second half of 2016. US requests have climbed steeply since Facebook's first report covering January to June 2013, when it received just 12,000 requests involving 21,000 accounts.

Worldwide requests for Facebook user data now significantly outnumber those received by Google, which recorded 48,941 requests concerning 83,345 accounts in first half of 2017.

US government requests for Facebook user data were more than double the 16,823 Google received in the period.

Facebook's report includes requests for user data from Facebook, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram accounts.

Authorities in India, the second largest source of Facebook user data requests, filed 9,853 requests for 13,752 accounts. Germany filed 5,211 requests, while the UK made 6,854 requests.

Facebook says that 57 percent of US government requests for user data in the first half of 2017 came with a secrecy order prohibiting it from notifying affected users. The non-disclosure orders climbed from 50 percent in the prior six months and 56 percent in the first half of 2016.

Like Google, Facebook has also started to provide links to a small number of US National Security Letters (NSLs) and their corresponding release letters authorizing it to disclose the NSL. So far it's been cleared to disclose five NSLs it received between 2012 and 2015. Facebook received between 0 to 499 NSLs in the first half of 2017 concerning 500 to 999 users.

Facebook says it received 224,464 copyright reports regarding content on Facebook, 41,854 trademark reports, and 14,279 counterfeit reports.

Content removal requests for violating local law rose a massive 304 percent globally, from 6,944 to 28,036, however this was due largely to a video of school shooting in Mexico in January. Facebook removed 20,506 instances of this video.

It also reported 52 disruptions to Facebook services in nine countries in this period, up from 43 disruptions in 20 countries in the prior six months.

Related coverage

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