Facebook says governments demanded data on 38K users (Update)

Aug 27, 2013 by Matt Apuzzo
This July 16, 2013 FILE photo, shows a sign at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. Government agents in 74 countries demanded information on about 38,000 Facebook users in the first half of this year, with about half the orders coming from authorities in the United States, the company said Tuesday. The social-networking giant is the latest technology company to release figures on how often governments seek information about its customers. Microsoft and Google have done the same. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Government agents in 74 countries demanded information on about 38,000 Facebook users in the first half of this year, with about half the orders coming from authorities in the United States, the company said Tuesday.

The social-networking giant is the latest technology company to release figures on how often governments seek information about its customers. Microsoft and Google have done the same.

As with the other companies, it's hard to discern much from Facebook's data, besides the fact that, as users around the globe flocked to the world's largest social network, police and intelligence agencies followed.

Facebook and Twitter have become organizing platforms for activists and, as such, have become targets for governments. During anti-government protests in Turkey in May and June, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called social media "the worst menace to society."

At the time, Facebook denied it provided information about protest organizers to the Turkish government.

Data released Tuesday show authorities in Turkey submitted 96 requests covering 173 users. Facebook said it provided some information in about 45 of those cases, but there's no information on what was turned over and why.

"We fight many of these requests, pushing back when we find legal deficiencies and narrowing the scope of overly broad or vague requests," Colin Stretch, Facebook's general counsel company said in a blog post. "When we are required to comply with a particular request, we frequently share only basic user information, such as name."

Facebook spokeswoman Sarah Feinberg said the company stands by its assertions that it gave no information regarding the Turkey protests.

"The data included in the report related to Turkey is about child endangerment and emergency law enforcement requests," she said.

Facebook and other technology companies have been criticized for helping the National Security Agency secretly collect data on customers. Federal law gives government the authority to demand data without specific warrants, and while companies can fight requests in secret court hearings, it's an uphill battle.

Facebook turned over some data in response to about 60 percent of those requests.

It's not clear from the Facebook data how many of the roughly 26,000 government requests on 38,000 users were for law-enforcement purposes and how many were for intelligence gathering.

Technology and government officials have said criminal investigations are far more common than national security matters as a justification for demanding information from companies.

The numbers are imprecise because the federal government forbids companies from revealing how many times they've been ordered to turn over information about their customers. Facebook released only a range of figures for the United States.

The company said it planned to start releasing these figures regularly.

Explore further: Spain: Google News vanishes amid 'Google Tax' spat

5 /5 (2 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Web giants get broader surveillance revelations

Jun 15, 2013

Facebook and Microsoft Corp. representatives said Friday night that after negotiations with national security officials their companies have been given permission to make new but still very limited revelations ...

US leads government demands for Twitter user data

Jul 31, 2013

Twitter revealed on Wednesday that government demands for information about users rose in the first half of this year, with US authorities accounting for more than three-quarters of the requests.

Turkey probes social network 'insults'

Jun 27, 2013

(AP)—Turkish authorities are investigating people who allegedly insulted state officials or incited riots on social media, the deputy prime minister said Thursday, in a sign the government is intent on ...

Apple releases details on US data requests

Jun 17, 2013

US tech giant Apple revealed on Monday it received between 4,000 and 5,000 data requests in six months from US authorities, days after Facebook and Microsoft released similar information.

Recommended for you

Spain: Google News vanishes amid 'Google Tax' spat

Dec 16, 2014

Google on Tuesday followed through with a pledge to shut down Google News in Spain in reaction to a Spanish law requiring news publishers to receive payment for content even if they are willing to give it away.

Brazil: Google fined in Petrobras probe

Dec 15, 2014

A Brazilian court says it has fined Google around $200,000 for refusing to intercept emails needed in a corruption investigation at state-run oil company Petrobras.

Microsoft builds support over Ireland email case

Dec 15, 2014

Microsoft said Monday it had secured broad support from a coalition of influential technology and media firms as it seeks to challenge a US ruling ordering it to hand over emails stored on a server in Ireland.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

PhyOrgSux
1 / 5 (1) Aug 27, 2013
Perhaps this is why FB (in some countries, at least) has reportedly enforced a policy whereby user is not allowed to register with a nickname. Makes it too complicated for authorities to map the account to a person.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.