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Facebook's 'Transparency Report' reveals data requests by UK police

The US government led the rankings in number of requests, asking for as much data as the next five countries combined.

Facebook has published its first Transparency Report revealing the extent to which governments request information about the site’s users and how often these requests are made. The report totals requests made over the first six months of 2013.

The United States made the most demands on the social networking site, with 11,000 – 12,000 requests filed, asking for information on between 20,000 and 21,000 individual users. Facebook reports that 79 per cent of these requests resulted in the site handing over data.

The US asked for substantially more information than any other country, making as many requests as the UK, France, Germany, India and Italy combined. The UK made the third most requests (behind India) with 1,975 cases concerning 2,337 individuals. Facebook returned data on 69 per cent of these.

Facebook intends to release these reports “regularly” in the future and has followed Google, Twitter and Microsoft in disclosing such information. Such efforts are a response to public distrust of these tech companies following Edward Snowden’s revelations about the extent to which governments spy on their citizens.

Facebook say that “the vast majority of these requests relate to criminal cases, such as robberies or kidnappings. In many of these cases, these government requests seek basic subscriber information, such as name and length of service. Other requests may also seek IP address logs or actual account content.”

Privacy advocates Big Brother Watch responded to the reports by saying “It is absurd that we learn more about Government surveillance from Microsoft, Google and Facebook than our own authorities.

“These figures were never mentioned during the Parliamentary debate on the draft communications data bill, nor in the annual report of the Interception of Communications Commissioner’s report."