Gov't requests for account data went up 27% in 2016 – Facebook

Gov't requests for account data went up 27% in 2016 – Facebook
Requests by governments around the world for Facebook account data went up 27 percent in the first half of 2016 compared to the latter half of 2015, the social media giant said.

Facebook Inc. released its Global Government Requests Report  on Wednesday for the first half of 2016, saying that governments worldwide cumulatively increased their data requests from 46,710 to 59,229 from the second half of 2015 to the first half of 2016.

More than half, or about 56 percent, of requests that came from US law enforcement "contained a non-disclosure order that prohibited us from notifying the user," Facebook said.

The number of requests for content restriction, or "the number of items restricted for violating local law," went down by 87 percent, from 55,827 to 9,663. Facebook said the attacks in Paris in November 2015 increased the number of content restrictions in the latter half of last year.

Facebook also said it received 38,675 data-preservation requests in the first half of 2016 for 67,129 of its accounts. 

"As we describe in our law enforcement guidelines, when we receive a preservation request, we will preserve a temporary snapshot of the relevant account information. We do not disclose any of the preserved records unless and until we receive formal and valid legal process," the company explained.

Emergency requests for data made by law enforcement in the first half of 2016 numbered 3,016 for 4,192 accounts, Facebook said.

"In cases of emergency, Facebook may disclose information where we believe that the matter involves imminent risk of serious injury or death," the company said. "In all of these cases, we require law enforcement to describe the emergency and explain how the requested disclosure might prevent harm."

The company insisted it does not provide governments with "back doors" or direct access to user information, saying it scrutinizes any request made by a government "for legal sufficiency."

"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," the company said.

In April, amid its previous release of government data requests, Facebook reported 41,214 such requests in the first half of 2015.