In an effort to increase its transparency as an organisation that reports to governments worldwide about its users, Facebook has published a report that tells us exactly who it’s been talking to in the first half of 2013 and how often it complied with requests.
The report lists countries in alphabetical order, explaining how many requests were made by each government, the number of user accounts information was requested on (total, not per request) and what percentage of instances was Facebook legally required to comply. Note that this doesn’t necessarily mean this is how many requests Facebook did comply with, but just which ones it was legally required to do so.
Facebook was keen to suggest it was no government puppet however, stating in the report: “We have stringent processes in place to handle all government data requests. We believe this process protects the data of the people who use our service, and requires governments to meet a very high legal bar with each individual request in order to receive any information about any of our users.”
It also suggests that any requests are heavily scrutinised, making sure that broad, sweeping demands are narrowed under strict legal guidelines. When it is required to comply, it apparently often shares only basic information, such as the name of an account holder.
But let’s look at the numbers and see what comes out. As you might expect, the United States has the most total requests, almost four times more in-fact, than any other. According to Facebook it put in as many as 12,000 requests in the first half of this year alone. During that time 20,000-21,000 users had their information revealed.
Other governments that felt the need to bombard Facebook with requests (albeit on a much smaller scale than Uncle Sam) included: United Kingdom (1,975), Italy (1705,) India (3,245), Germany (1,866), France (1547) and Brazil, (715).
Where this gets interesting however, is the per centage of requests Facebook is expected to comply with – and therefore an indication of the power (or lack thereof) of privacy laws within said countries. The US again has one of the worst, with 79 per cent, though Taiwan beats it out with a whopping 84 per cent compliance. Albania has a high 83 per cent, but only for six total requests – likewise Finland and Iceland have only made a single request each, granting them a 100 per cent success rate.
Looking at the other end of the scale, Germany has only 37 per cent success, likewise in France with 39 per cent – despite thousands of requests. India and Italy are only around 50 per cent but here in good ol’ blighty, we have one of the highest at 68 per cent.
If you want to view the full report, you can do so here.
KitGuru Says: Regardless of Facebook requests, this is a great indicator of government powers to infringe on privacy. No doubt many of these requests were legitimate searches for terrorists or the like, but something tells me not all of them were.