Facebook has recently released it’s annual “transparency report,” in which it details (among other things) the requests received by the social media company for private user information made by various governments from around the world between January and July of the year in question.
Year after year, the company has reported a 20% plus growth in government-related information requests. Still, the social media platform did not divulge why most of these requests were made and which accounts were the subject of these inquiries.
What Does This Mean, and Who is Asking for Facebook User Data
In short, these statistics mean governments have found social media—and Facebook, in particular—a useful source of information. Unfortunately, the raw numbers supplied by the company give us little insight into why governments are gathering this data and what they hope to accomplish with it.
Though virtually every government with widespread internet infrastructure has made such demands from the social media platform, the United States is by far the most frequent originator of these demands.
More troubling yet, the company reports that the United States government frequently issues secrecy orders along with their information requests. These legally bar the company from informing users when their data has been collected.
While it may be tempting to read nefarious intent into the governments’ actions, it should be noted that many of these requests appear to be attempts at specific copyright and intellectual property laws.
Whatever the case, the company reports that the U.S. government requests for information targeted over 50,000 individual user accounts over the last year. The number was significantly higher than in past years.
Though responsible for the majority of requests, the United States is not alone in mining this particular platform for data. The company also reports receiving a significant number of demands from India, Germany, and the United Kingdom.
For more information, the full report is available in the Facebook Newsroom.
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