updated 04:21 pm EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
US continues to ask for most user data, India most censorious
Facebook has updated its global government transparency report for the second time, covering the second half of 2013. Aside from revealing that it had 28147 requests for user data from 81 countries, up from between 25,607 and 26,607 requests from 71 countries in the previous report, Facebook is also revealing which countries are restricting or removing content from view.
In the first report, the United States government was said to have made between 11,000 and 12,000 requests for user data, affecting between 20,000 and 21,000 accounts and having a 79-percent success rate in acquiring the data. The second report gives precise numbers, with requests rising to 12,598 between July and December of 2013, affecting 18,715 accounts, though it is marginally more successful in getting results with an 81.02-percent strike rate.
The United States tops the chart of user data requests, with the second and third-place countries being the same as in the last report. India requested data 3,598 times from 4,711 accounts, similar to the first half of 2013 where it requested 3,245 times over 4,144 accounts. It is a similar story for the United Kingdom, with requests decreasing from 1,975 to 1906, and the number of affected accounts decreasing slightly from 2,337 to 2,277.
In terms of restricting content, India is the biggest culprit with 4765 requests, followed by Turkey, Pakistan, Israel, and Germany with 2014, 162, 113, and 84 requests respectively. The United States and Canada did not make a single content blocking request for the six-month period, but the United Kingdom did, with three requests. Thirteen countries in total made content restriction requests, with India and Turkey alone making up 92.5 percent of the figure.
In a blog post about the Government Requests Report, Facebook general counsel Colin Stretch reiterated Facebook's commitment to push governments to authorize greater transparency for law enforcement requests of user data, singling out the lack of ability to give accurate figures for requests relating to national security. Just as before, Facebook is forced to wait six months before revealing Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requests from National Security Letters, and only revealing data in bands of 1,000. In the last six-month period, Facebook has received between 0 and 999 National Security Letters concerning less than 1,000 accounts, an improvement on the previous period, which saw less than a thousand content requests affecting between 4,000 and 4,999 accounts.
"Recent news accounts of alleged surveillance efforts by the United States government in other countries reinforce the importance of ensuring that all governments around the world seek access to user account information only through lawful process," writes Stretch. "We will continue to advocate for that principle, and for the additional transparency and accountability measures necessary to rebuild people's trust in the Internet.