Facebook: U.S. requested data on more than 5,000 users

Here are the key takeaways from Facebook's first-ever Global Government Requests Report.


Kevin Collier

Internet Culture

Published Aug 27, 2013   Updated Jun 1, 2021, 8:05 am CDT

Facebook has released its first-ever Global Government Requests Report. Comparable to Twitter‘s Transparency Report, it measures how many requests the governments of the world made for Facebook information in the first six months of 2013, and for how many users.

The move can be seen as a direct response to the leaks by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. In June, Snowden took NSA slides detailing a number of programs, including one called PRISM, which specifically cited Facebook as one of nine companies the NSA tapped for “direct access” to users’ information.

Facebook, along with other PRISM companies like Google and Yahoo, proceeded to go relatively public with its relationship to the government, saying it worked with the U.S. government when legally compelled to do so. The companies were often issued gag orders from the classified Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court from talking about such requests. However, later leaks showed that through programs like XKeyscore, the NSA has the technical capability to track most online activity, including using Facebook, without companies knowing.

Nevertheless, other U.S. agencies still do need to go through traditional legal channels for legal info. And considering Facebook is the number one social-networking site for almost the entire world, plenty of other governments are clamoring for citizens information. The entire report is available here—you must be logged into Facebook to access it—but here are a few highlights.

  • Unsurprisingly, the U.S. made the most requests from Facebook by a long shot, and it was the only country that asked for more than 5,000 users. Keep in mind this is for a range of agencies, from local sheriffs to federal intelligence agencies. The U.S. is also the only country for which Facebook issues a range of requests, rather than a specific number. This is presumably to account for FISC orders, the exact number of which is classified.
  • Five other countries’ requests topped four figures: France (1,547 requests for 1,598 users), Germany (1,886 for 2,068), India (3,245 for 4,144), Italy, (1,705 for 2,306), and the U.K. (1,975 for 2,337).
  • A few countries made at least one request for Facebook user data but received absolutely zero information. Those are Bangladesh, Barbados, Botswana, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ivory Coast, Japan, Kosovo, Malaysia, Mongolia, Montenegro, Panama, Qatar, Russia, Serbia, South Africa, Uganda, and Thailand.
  • The presumably most frustrated of those countries are probably South Africa, which made 14 unanswered requests for nine users, and Bangladesh, which didn’t get any information on the 12 users it wanted to investigate.
  • Only two countries had a perfect record of getting information on their targets: Hong Kong and Iceland. Each made one request on one user and got it.

Facebook didn’t immediately respond to the Daily Dot’s inquiry.

Illustration by Jason Reed

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*First Published: Aug 27, 2013, 12:54 pm CDT