Facebook: 60 Percent Of 2H 2015 U.S. Data Requests Came With Gag Order

Facebook said in its latest transparency report covering the second half of 2015 that government requests for user data worldwide are rising. Also for the first time, the social networking company revealed the percentage of requests it received that included non-disclosure orders.

Facebook: 60 Percent Of 2H 2015 U.S. Data Requests Came With Gag Order

Facebook getting more transparent

For the period, it received 46,763 requests from authorities for account data, which is 13% higher than in the first half of last year. The report further states that the number of cases related to violating local laws increased from 20,568 to 55,827.

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”As we have emphasized many times, Facebook does not provide any government with ‘back doors’ or direct access to people’s data. We scrutinize each request for user data we receive for legal sufficiency, no matter which country is making the request. If a request appears to be deficient or overly broad, we push back hard and will fight in court, if necessary,” said Facebook Deputy General Counsel Chris Sonderby.

Sonderby informed readers that the U.S. government attached a gag order to about 60% of all requests it made for user data. This order forbids the company from notifying the users that the government has asked for information about them. By looking at the report, it is difficult to tell the request types for which such orders were issued.

Case studies to explain better

The increase in government requests during the latter half of 2015 was precipitated by quite a few events. To give readers a better understanding, Facebook cited case studies in its transparency report.

For example, Sonderby said a single photo related to the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris allegedly violated French laws relating to protecting human dignity. In France only, the company restricted access to more than 32,000 copies of the photo after it received a legal request from the French government, the executive explained.

Facebook said it is advocating for improvements in public policy and cooperation with international law enforcement so as to retain the belief of users that it doesn’t voluntarily surrender user information to governments. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Email Privacy Act this week, and Facebook supported it, Sonderby said.

He added that Facebook also supported improving ways to make the Mutual Legal Assistance process more efficient. The social network also favors the establishment of agreements between governments that help resolve conflicts of laws and also permit providers to respond to foreign law enforcement requests in a manner consistent with international human rights.