Government requests for private Facebook data up 24%

Government requests for private Facebook data have increased by nearly 25% since the second half of 2013, the social networking giant has reported.

Writing in a blog post on the site, Chris Sonderby, Facebook’s Deputy General Counsel, stated that in the first six months of the year, governments worldwide made 34,946 requests for data, up 24% from the last six months of 2013.  He also stated that over the same period, locally restricted content went up by 19%.

“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,” he wrote.

Sonderby was particularly bullish about the company’s record of challenging requests it finds overreaching, highlighting the recent challenge against bulk search warrants received from a New York court requesting data on ‘nearly 400 people’. He wrote, “This unprecedented request was by far the largest we’ve ever received. We’ve argued that these overly broad warrants violate the privacy rights of the people on Facebook and ignore constitutional safeguards against unreasonable searches and seizures.”

“Despite a setback in the lower court, we’re aggressively pursuing an appeal to a higher court to invalidate these sweeping warrants and to force the government to return the data it has seized,” Sonderby added.

TIME notes that the company’s transparency can only go so far, and specifically that it can’t reveal details about Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act orders or National Security Letters it may or may not have received as “the two US laws allow the government data surveillance for security reasons, but companies aren’t legally permitted to disclose exact information about their requests.”

The BBC reports that the percentage increase in requests is markedly higher than what Google has reported in the same period: “In September, Google reported a 15% increase in the number of requests in the first half of this year compared to the prior six months, and a 150% rise in the last five years, from governments around the world to reveal user information for criminal investigations.”

Sukharevskyy Dmytro (nevodka) /

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