Facebook: Governments’ demanding more user data, content restrictions

Facebook says that governments’ requests for information and for the removal of content have increased in the first half of 2015. Such requests have substantially increased in the last two years, since the company began releasing such information.

Facebook said in a blogpost that the number of accounts for which governments around the world have requested account data jumped 18 percent in the first half of 2015, to 41,214 accounts, up from 35,051 requests in the second half of 2014.

The number of pieces of content which were restricted for violating local law more than doubled, to 20,568, compared with the same period in the second half of 2014.

Facebook notes that most government requests related to criminal cases, such as robberies or kidnappings. The account information governments requested were typically basic subscriber information, IP addresses, or account content, including people’s posts online.

Most of the government requests came from U.S. law enforcement agencies.U.S. agencies requested data about 26,579 accounts — more than 60 percent of the total number of requests – up from 21,731 accounts for which U.S law enforcement agencies requested information in the second half of 2014.

France, Germany, and Britain also account for a large percentage of the account information requests – and the three countries had also filed many more requests for content restrictions in 2015 compared to 2014. Facebook noted that some of the content taken down in response to requests by Germany had to do with Holocaust denial.

Facebook notes that India and Turkey accounted for most of the content taken down for violating local laws. India had 15,155 pieces of content restricted, nearly three times the number of pieces of content India wanted restricted in the second half of 2014, while Turkey had 4,496 content items restricted, up from 3,624 in the second half of 2014.

The Guardian reports that the technology industry has pushed for greater transparency on government data and content restriction requests, seeking to assuage concerns about the involvement of tech companies in secretive surveillance programs revealed in Edward Snowden’s leaks.

“Facebook does not provide any government with ‘back doors’ or direct access to people’s data,” Facebook wrote in the company’s blog.

— Read more in Government Requests Report (Facebook, 11 November 2015)

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