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August 27, 2013

U.S. Tops List of Facebook User Data Requests, Transparency Report Reveals

Governments Demand Data on 38,000 Facebook Users in First Half of 2013

Governments from around the globe requested information on more than 38,000 Facebook users during the first six months of 2013, the social network has revealed in its first-ever transparency report.

The social network’s Global Government Requests Report, released today, revealed that of the 74 countries to make information requests, the United States made significantly more than any other country and, in fact, more than doubled the requests of second place India.

The U.S. made between 11,000 and 12,000 requests for data on 20,000 to 21,000 user accounts. Facebook released at least some of the data in 79 percent of the requests.

The U.S. data is given as a range rather than as an exact number because it is illegal for companies to disclose how many national security letter requests they have received.

India, although in second place when it comes to requests, trailed far behind the U.S. with 3,245 requests for information on 4,144 accounts. Facebook complied at least partially with half of the requests.

The other countries to make the top 10 list are:

3. United Kingdom — 1,975 requests on 2,337 accounts, 68 percent compliance.

4. Germany — 1,886 requests on 2,068 accounts, 37 percent compliance.

5. Italy — 1,705 requests on 2,068 accounts, 53 percent compliance.

6. France — 1,547 requests on 1,598 accounts, 39 percent compliance.

7. Brazil — 715 requests on 857 accounts, 33 percent compliance.

8. Australia — 546 requests on 601 accounts, 64 percent compliance.

9. Spain — 479 requests on 715 accounts, 51 percent compliance.

10. Poland — 233 requests on 158 accounts, nine percent compliance.

Facebook general counsel Colin Stretch said the social network has “stringent processes in place” to deal with any type of government data requests.

“We believe this process protects the data of the people who use our service, and requires governments to meet a very high legal bar with each individual request in order to receive any information about any of our users,” Stretch said.

“We scrutinize each request for legal sufficiency under our terms and the strict letter of the law, and require a detailed description of the legal and factual bases for each request. We fight many of these requests, pushing back when we find legal deficiencies and narrowing the scope of overly broad or vague requests. When we are required to comply with a particular request, we frequently share only basic user information, such as name.”

The report which covers through June 30, is similar to those released by Google and Twitter every six months.

Facebook said it plans to publish similar reports bi-annually from now on.