First Facebook Transparency Report Highlights US Government’s Data Hunger

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Report throws up no surprises for which country is the hungriest for user data – America, followed by India and the UK

Facebook has released its first ever Transparency Report showing government requests for its users’ data and the usual suspects topped the list of those nations most hungry for information.

The US made far more data requests than any other nation, with somewhere between 11,000 and 12,000 in the first six months of 2013. Those related to between 20,000 and 21,000 users.

Facebook transparency

05914530-photo-logo-facebookIndia was second with 3,245 requests on 4,144 users, followed by the UK with 1,975 on 2,337 members.

In 32 percent of cases in the UK, Facebook declined to provide any data. But in the US that figure was just 21 percent, showing how effective US intelligence and law enforcement agencies data swipes have become.

Facebook has been facing pressure to open up on its work with the US government, since whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed its involvement in the National Security Agency’s PRISM data collection programme.

“As we have said many times, we believe that while governments have an important responsibility to keep people safe, it is possible to do so while also being transparent,” said Colin Stretch, Facebook general counsel.

“Government transparency and public safety are not mutually exclusive ideals. Each can exist simultaneously in free and open societies, and they help make us stronger. We strongly encourage all governments to provide greater transparency about their efforts aimed at keeping the public safe, and we will continue to be aggressive advocates for greater disclosure.”

With Google, Microsoft and Twitter also producing regular transparency reports, pressure is now mounting on governments to talk more about how they invade people’s privacy, ostensibly for the safety of the people.

“It is absurd that we learn more about Government surveillance from Microsoft, Google and Facebook than our own authorities,” the Big Brother Watch said in a blog post today.

“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.

“It is impossible to have a realistic debate about ‘capability gaps’ and how powers are being used if we do not have the data, and the Government should be far more proactive in publishing information.”

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