Facebook Reveals Data Requests Made by Governments in First Half of 2018

In the latest issue of its bi-yearly Transparency Report, Facebook has revealed that the number of government demands for data has increased by 26%, going from 82,341 requests to 103,815 year over year.

The Transparency Report includes information such as government requests for user data, where access to Facebook products and services was disrupted, the number of content restrictions based on local law, and reports of counterfeit, copyright, and trademark infringement.

The latest report, which covers the first half of this year, showed that government requests increased by about 30% in the US, with 56% of those requests containing a non-disclosure order, an order that prohibits Facebook from notifying the user.

But based on newly enacted rules, which stem from the 2016 the Freedom Act, gag orders, such as the ones referenced above, must now be reviewed by the FBI periodically. The information revealed by Facebook is based on 13 National Security Letters (NSLs), received between 2014 and 2017, that the government has lifted the non-disclosure orders on.

Facebook issues these report in part to help hold both the governments and Facebook accountable.

According to Facebook’s deputy general counsel Chris Sonderby, Facebook makes sure that requests are fair before proceeding to execute them.

“We always scrutinize each government request we receive for account data to make sure it is legally valid. If a request appears to be deficient or overly broad, we push back, and will fight in court, if necessary,” he said.

He goes on to cite an for example where Facebook was able to defeat a criminal court order that wanted to force Facebook Brazil to wiretap all Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger accounts from a specific location and timeframe by resorting to the court of appeals in Brazil.

The report also revealed that during the first half of 2018:

  • The number of pieces of content that the company restricted based on local law increased by 7%, rising from 14,280 to 15,337.
  • Facebook services suffered 48 disruptions in 8 countries in the reporting period, the previous report had accounted for 46 disruptions in 12 countries.
  • The company took down 2,999,278 pieces of content on Facebook and Instagram based on 466,810 copyright reports, 203,375 pieces of content based on 69,756 trademark reports, and 641,059 pieces of content based on 29,828 counterfeit reports.

The full report can be accessed here.