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Global Government Requests Report

By Chris Sonderby, Deputy General Counsel

Today we are releasing our latest Global Government Requests Report for the second half of 2016, which details the number of government requests we received for data, as well as the number of items of content restricted for violating local law in countries where our service is available.

Government requests for account data increased by 9% globally compared to the first half of 2016, from 59,229 to 64,279 requests. About half of the data requests we received from law enforcement in the US contained a non-disclosure order that prohibited us from notifying the user. 

The number of content restrictions for violating local law went down by 28% globally compared to the first half of 2016, from 9,663 to 6,944. Our prior two reports had reflected more restrictions based largely on French content restrictions of a single image from the November 13, 2015 Bataclan terrorist attack in Paris.

For the first time, we’re also including information about internet disruptions that impacted access to Facebook products and services during the half. Internet disruptions harm local economies and prevent people from sharing and communicating with their family and friends.

As we have previously emphasized, we apply a rigorous approach to every government request we receive to protect the information of the people who use our services. We scrutinize each request for legal sufficiency, no matter which country is making the request, and challenge those that are deficient or overly broad. We do not provide governments with “back doors” or direct access to people’s information. 

We also continue to seek ways to work with partners in industry and civil society to push governments around the world to reform surveillance in a way that protects their citizens’ safety and security while respecting their rights and freedoms. Since our last report, we received an update on a US court case in which Facebook fought to protect people from overreaching search warrants. While the court in New York recognized that our case raised “novel and important substantive issues,” it found that the lower court’s order denying our challenge was “nonappealable,” and declined to review it further. Nevertheless, we are grateful to the many organizations that joined us in challenging these warrants, and we’re continuing to partner with them to support legislation proposed in New York that would clarify the ability of providers to formally contest defective search warrants. 

More broadly, we believe that reforms are needed beyond New York. The current process for handling cross border requests for data is slow and cumbersome, and legitimate requests are often subject to months and months of delays. We believe that companies, governments, civil society organizations, and academics should work together to improve this process and to raise human rights standards throughout the world.  We will continue to work with partners in industry and civil society to push governments around the world to reform surveillance in a way that protects their citizens’ safety and security while respecting their rights and freedoms, while recognizing the obligation of governments to uphold the law and protect their residents.

Please see the full report for more information.