Facebook: How Often U.S. Government Comes Calling for Data

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Facebook revealed more detail on how frequently it gets information requests from government agencies in a public statement late Friday.

In a post on the company’s press site, Facebook General Counsel Ted Ullyot said it received between 9,000-10,000 requests over the six-month period ending on Dec. 31, 2012. That adds up to roughly 1,500 requests per month. . Ullyot said the nature of the requests from “government entities” is quite varied, including things like a local sheriff trying to locate a missing child to national security agencies investigating terrorist activity.

Ullyot said Facebook was only permitted to disclose the number of requests after negotiations with “U.S. national security authorities,” where Facebook urged for more transparency around the orders the company is required to comply with. Going forward, Facebook will now include the number of national-security requests (including FISA-related ones) in a transparency report, and is the first company to be allowed to do so, Ullyot wrote.

Although he said the change was “progress,” Ullyot said Facebook will continue to push for more transparency.

With the disclosure, Ullyot said he hopes it will give people a better idea of just how much of Facebook’s user base is affected by government requests. Those 9,000-10,000 requested data on between 18,000-19,000 Facebook accounts, or 0.002% of Facebook users.

Ullyot reiterated some of what Mark Zuckerberg said in his denials about government accessing Facebook data over the past couple of weeks: that Facebook scrutinizes every government request for user data, and that it rejects them “frequently.”

Facebook and other major tech companies have recently been under intense scrutiny after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden made claims that the government was obtaining large amounts of user data from wireless carriers and Internet services in a program called PRISM, and keeping it secret from the public.

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About olivierlehe

Passion for Innovations

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