Facebook reports spike in government requests for data

Wed Nov 11, 2015 10:12pm EST
 
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By Yasmeen Abutaleb and Sudarshan Varadhan

SAN FRANCISCO/BANGALORE (Reuters) - Facebook Inc FB.O said in a report on Wednesday that government demands for its user data surged in the first half of 2015, taking a trend that began at least two years ago when the company started revealing such requests to new heights.

Government access to personal data from telephone and Web companies has become a contentious privacy issue since former spy agency contractor Edward Snowden revealed surreptitious surveillance programs.

The technology industry has pushed for greater transparency on government data requests, seeking to shake off concerns that they are working with the government and violating user privacy.

Facebook's biannual report is one of the chief indicators of government interest in the company's data. The social media giant is generally not allowed to publicize specific requests by law enforcement and spy agencies.

Government requests for account data globally jumped 18 percent in the first half of 2015 to 41,214 accounts, up from 35,051 requests in the second half of 2014, Facebook said in the report posted on its website. (bit.ly/1LayIL2)

In the first half of this year, Facebook took down 20,568 posts and other pieces of content that violated local laws, more than doubling the number taken down in the second half of 2014. Such restricted content includes anything from Nazi propaganda in Germany to depictions of violent crimes.

Facebook's user base has grown explosively to 1.55 billion people, up from 1.4 billion in the second half of last year.

The government often requests basic subscriber information, IP addresses or account content, including people's posts online.   Continued...

 
A Facebook logo is displayed on the side of a tour bus in New York's financial district July 28, 2015. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid