By Colin Stretch, Facebook General Counsel
Transparency and trust are core values at Facebook. 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.
We are pleased to release our first Global Government Requests Report, which details the following:
- Which countries requested information from Facebook about our users
- The number of requests received from each of those countries
- The number of users/user accounts specified in those requests
- The percentage of these requests in which we were required by law to disclose at least some data
The report covers the first 6 months of 2013, ending June 30.
As we have made clear in recent weeks, we have stringent processes in place to handle all 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. 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.
More details about our approach to responding to government requests can be found here.
We hope this report will be useful to our users in the ongoing debate about the proper standards for government requests for user information in official investigations. And while we view this compilation as an important first report – it will not be our last. In coming reports, we hope to be able to provide even more information about the requests we receive from law enforcement authorities.
As we have said many times, we believe that while governments have an important responsibility to keep people safe, it is possible to do so while also being transparent. Government transparency and public safety are not mutually exclusive ideals. Each can exist simultaneously in free and open societies, and they help make us stronger. We strongly encourage all governments to provide greater transparency about their efforts aimed at keeping the public safe, and we will continue to be aggressive advocates for greater disclosure.
|Country||Total Requests||Users / Accounts requested||Percentage of requests where some data produced|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||4||11||25 %|
|Costa Rica||4||6||0 %|
|Czech Republic||10||13||60 %|
|El Salvador||2||2||0 %|
|Hong Kong||1||1||100 %|
|Ivory Coast||4||4||0 %|
|New Zealand||106||119||58 %|
|South Africa||14||9||0 %|
|South Korea||7||15||14 %|
|United Kingdom||1,975||2,337||68 %|
|United States||11,000 – 12,000||20,000 – 21,000||79 %|
What is a government data request?
Governments make requests to Facebook and many other companies seeking account information in official investigations. The vast majority of these requests relate to criminal cases, such as robberies or kidnappings. In many of these cases, these government requests seek basic subscriber information, such as name and length of service. Other requests may also seek IP address logs or actual account content. We have strict guidelines in place to deal with all government data requests: https://www.facebook.com/safety/groups/law/guidelines/
Does this report contain every request you have received from every government around the world during the time period stipulated?
Yes. This report contains every request for user data we received for the first six months of 2013.
Does this report contain requests related to criminal matters, or national security matters, or both?
The report contains the total number of requests we’ve received from each government, including both criminal and national security requests.
Why did you report the numbers for the United States in ranges?
We have reported the numbers for all criminal and national security requests to the maximum extent permitted by law. 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.
Will Facebook start releasing these reports regularly?
Yes. It is our intention to release these reports regularly in the future.