Number of government data requests getting worse by the year, says Facebook

12 Nov 2015

Facebook has released its latest Global Government Requests Report for the first half of 2015 and, based off its figures, the number of government requests for content removal has increased by 112pc since the last report.

The last time Facebook reported on its government data requests over a year ago, we were being told that the social network received 15,443 requests for access to users or accounts with 80pc of these handed over to the respective governments.

This time around, however, we are being told that the number of articles that have been requested to be taken down due to breaking local laws has increased to 20,568 pieces of content, up from 9,707 in 2014.

Meanwhile, government requests for account data increased across all countries by 18pc over the same period, from 35,051 requests to 41,214.

When broken down on a country-by-country basis, the US’s position as the world leader in data requests is still unbeatable – worryingly from a privacy perspective – with a total of 17,577 requests affecting 26,579 users.

Ireland requests decrease from 2014

India is catching up to the US, however, racking up 5,115 requests for user posts, the majority of which ended up being taken down and in the hands of its government.

From an Irish perspective, we can at least rest a little easier knowing that the number of requests has decreased from the latter half of 2014, when 34 user accounts were requested by the Government, to 18 user accounts.

The percentage of requests given access to the Government by Facebook has also decreased as a result from 70.59pc in 2014 to 60pc in the first half of this year.

The company still defends its offering up of data in particular situations, emphasising that it is not doing it willingly or cooperating with governments.

“As we have emphasised before, Facebook does not provide any government with ‘back doors’ or direct access to people’s data,” its release said. “We scrutinise each request we receive for legal sufficiency, whether from an authority in the US, Europe, or elsewhere. If a request appears to be deficient or overly broad, we push back hard and will fight in court, if necessary.”

Camel snooping over fence image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic