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US, India lead government requests for Facebook user data

Facebook has released its latest report on government requests for user data and while Western countries are making fewer requests, they still very much lead the way, along with India.

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Between July and December 2014, the social network received 35 051 requests for government data, up from 34 946 in the first half of the year. Of those, some 14 274 came from various entities within the US government. According to Facebook, the requests concerned 21 731 user accounts and “some data” was provided in 79.14% of cases. A little over half of the requests came in the shape of warrants, with subpoenas also making up a substantial portion of the requests received. The number represents a slight decrease from the 15 433 requests made by the US government in the first half of 2014.

Next on the list is India with 5 473 accounts, affecting 7 281 users. Given India’s culture of censorship — at one stage its government urged 21 companies, including Facebook and Google, to censor objectionable material hosted on their respective services — it should hardly be surprising that the number of requests it made were so high.

That said, Facebook acceded to just 44.69% of requests for user data. It did however restrict access to 5 832 pieces of content deemed to be “anti-religious”, “hate speech”, or capable of causing “unrest and disharmony”.

Read more: The US government filed 95% of all Pinterest user data requests in 2014

Some way behind the US and India are the UK (2 366 requests), Germany (2 132 requests), and France (2 094 requests). Of those, the UK was able to get the most data from the social networking giant with 75.11% of the requests it made resulting in the release of some data.

Each of those countries did however make slightly fewer requests than in the first half of 2014.

“We publish this information because we want people to know the extent and nature of the requests we receive from governments and the policies we have in place to process them,” Facebook said in a statement.

It’s also a very good way for Facebook to show that it’s not in bed with government surveillance agencies, as it’s sometimes accused of being.

“Moving forward, we will continue to scrutinize each government request and push back when we find deficiencies,” the social networking giant added. “We will also continue to push governments around the world to reform their surveillance practices in a way that maintains the safety and security of their people while ensuring their rights and freedoms are protected”.

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