By Chris Sonderby, Facebook Deputy General Counsel
Today, we’re releasing our third Government Requests Report, which provides information about the number of government data and content removal requests we received for the first half of 2014, as well as updated information about national security requests we received under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and through National Security Letters.
Since our first report, we’ve seen an increase in government requests for data and for content restrictions. In the first six months of 2014, governments around the world made 34,946 requests for data — an increase of about 24% since the last half of 2013. During the same time, the amount of content restricted because of local laws increased about 19%.
As we’ve said before, we scrutinize every government request we receive for legal sufficiency under our terms and the strict letter of the law, and push back hard when we find deficiencies or are served with overly broad requests.
Indeed, over the past year, we’ve challenged bulk search warrants issued by a court in New York that demanded we turn over nearly all data from the accounts of nearly 400 people. This unprecedented request was by far the largest we’ve ever received. We’ve argued that these overly broad warrants violate the privacy rights of the people on Facebook and ignore constitutional safeguards against unreasonable searches and seizures. Despite a setback in the lower court, we’re aggressively pursuing an appeal to a higher court to invalidate these sweeping warrants and to force the government to return the data it has seized. We’re grateful for the support of others in industry and civil society who’ve filed friend-of-the-court briefs in support of our fight. We expect the case to be decided by a New York appellate court later this year, and we look forward to updating you on the results of this important case.
More broadly, we continue to work with our industry and civil society partners to push governments for additional transparency and to reform surveillance practices necessary to rebuild people’s trust in the Internet. While we recognize that governments need to take action to protect their citizens’ safety and security, we believe all government data requests must be narrowly tailored, proportionate to the case in review, and subject to strict judicial oversight.
As such, we support recent efforts in the U.S. Senate to pass the USA FREEDOM Act, and we’re hopeful that Congress will update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act to codify our requirement of a warrant to compel disclosure of the stored contents of an account. We will continue to work on our own and with partners, such as the Reform Government Surveillance coalition, to protect the information of the people who use our services.