Facebook discloses government data requests


Facebook said Tuesday it received more than 25,000 government data requests in the first half of 2013, with the largest number from the United States.

The company’s first “transparency report” showed Facebook received between 11,000 and 12,000 requests for data in the U.S., affecting between 20,000 and 21,000 users. It also received more than 14,800 requests from 70 other countries for various government investigations.

Facebook said the report includes “both criminal and national security requests,” but without a detailed breakdown.

“We have reported the numbers for all criminal and national security requests to the maximum extent permitted by law,” Facebook said. “We continue to push the United States government to allow more transparency regarding these requests, including specific numbers and types of national security-related requests. We will publish updated information for the United States as soon as we obtain legal authorization to do so.”

The report comes with U.S. tech companies under fire following revelations of a secret program that scoops up vast amounts of data from Internet firms.

Tech firms such as Facebook have been seeking to release more information on government data requests in the belief that this would reassure customers.

Facebook’s report follows the release of similar information from other tech firms, including Google, Microsoft and Twitter.

The Facebook report says that at least some data was released in 79 percent of U.S. data requests.

“Transparency and trust are core values at Facebook,” the company’s general counsel, Colin Stretch, said. “We strive to embody them in all aspects of our services, including our approach to responding to government data requests. We want to make sure that the people who use our service understand the nature and extent of the requests we receive and the strict policies and processes we have in place to handle them.”

The second-largest number came from India, where 3,245 requests were made, affecting 4,144 users, Facebook said. The company provided at least some data in 50 percent of those cases.

Facebook said that in the United States, it requires “a valid subpoena,” court order or search warrant before turning over data. In other countries, Facebook said, “We disclose account records solely in accordance with our terms of service and applicable law.”

Facebook said the third-largest number of requests came in Britain at 1,975, followed by Germany at 1,886, Italy at 1,705 and France at 1,547. Google, in its most recent transparency report covering the past six months of 2012, said it received 21,389 government requests.