Government requests for Facebook user data are up 24% in six months

The Los Angeles Times reports: Government requests for Facebook data increased 24% in just six months, the social media giant said Tuesday, and nearly half of those requests came from the United States.

Between January and June, governments across the globe made 34,946 requests for data, according to the Menlo Park, Calif., company’s latest transparency report. The United States was responsible for 15,433 of those requests, spanning 23,667 accounts.

Facebook turned over data in about 80% of the cases; many of the requests were parts of search warrants or subpoenas, the report shows. The amount of content restricted or removed because of local laws increased about 19% since the end of 2013.

The world’s largest social network began releasing transparency reports in June 2013, after revelations that the company shared user data with the National Security Agency’s secret Internet surveillance program, Prism.

“We scrutinize every government request we receive for legal sufficiency under our terms and the strict letter of the law, and push back hard when we find deficiencies or are served with overly broad requests,” Facebook’s deputy general counsel, Chris Sonderby, said in a statement.

Over the same period, Twitter received 2,058 government requests, 1,257 of which were from the U.S. government, according to its September transparency report. It shared data in 73% of those cases.

Google has seen a 15% increase in requests since the second half of last year, and a 150% jump since the company began publishing such data in 2009. In the United States, requests have hiked 19% and 250%, respectively.

The PR departments inside the social media giants must love reports like this. Facebook, Twitter et al, get to play victims of government power and cast themselves as heroic defenders of public interest, dedicated to transparency and strict compliance with the law.

What gets glossed over is the fact that the data buccaneer, the NSA, that would have no data to plunder if it wasn’t being gathered by the internet companies in the first place.

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