Governments’ demand for Facebook data reaches all-time high

14 Nov 2019

Image: © Goodpics/

Facebook’s latest transparency report reveals that governments across the world are more eager than ever to get access to user data.

Facebook has released its latest transparency report documenting a number of different aspects of the social network, ranging from the number of abusive posts removed in the past year to how many removed posts were reinstated after appeal.

The report also revealed the total number of government requests for access to Facebook user data, which shows that it received a total of 128,617 requests globally in the first half of this year.

This is a 16pc jump on the same figure for the second half of last year and follows a trend where the number of requests has only increased since records began. In the first half of 2013, Facebook received 25,607 such requests.

Looking at the breakdown of data requests, the overwhelming majority (90.5pc) were requests from governments for legal cases. The remaining percentage were ‘emergency disclosure requests’, where information is revealed to law enforcement when it’s likely a Facebook user is in immediate risk of serious harm or death.

The US remains the biggest requester of user data with 50,741 requests, representing almost 40pc of the global total. India is the second largest requester in the world with 22,684. Notably, while in 88pc of instances data was handed over to US law enforcement, only 54pc was handed over to Indian authorities.

Irish requests

The UK – which made a total of 7,721 requests – saw access for 90pc of requests granted. Irish authorities requested access to data 57 times in the first half of the year across almost 100 accounts. Only two of these fell under the emergency disclosure request category, and 82pc of requests for access were granted.

The Facebook report also charted the number of internet disruptions to the social network over the first half of 2019, with India experiencing the greatest number (40). Other nations to experience more than one disruption included Algeria (seven), Ethiopia (four), Kazakhstan (three), Sri Lanka (two) and Myanmar (two).

The company also revealed that it removed millions of posts from Facebook and Instagram for violating the rules of the platforms. Facebook’s vice-president for integrity, Guy Rosen, said that the number of posts acted on before a user reported them increased from 68pc to 80pc since its last report.

However, he added that up until July of this year, the system logging and counting actions wasn’t working as planned.

“This was largely due to needing to count multiple actions that take place within a few milliseconds and not miss, or overstate, any of the individual actions taken,” he said. The company said it has improved its metric since then and updated previous figures.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic