Sergey Nivens - Fotolia

Facebook report shows governments asking for more user data

While the US tops Facebook's list with 26,579 requests for user data, the UK is in second place, followed by India

Government requests for user data have increased significantly in the past year, with the UK second only to the US, according to Facebook.

The social networking firm’s latest Global government requests report for the first half of 2015 also shows an increase in government requests to block content.

Facebook said the report is part of a broader effort to reform government surveillance in countries around the world by providing more transparency.

While the US tops the list with 26,579 requests for user data – up by 22% compared with the previous year, the UK is in second place with 6,268 requests, followed by India with 4,489.

In comparison, France made 2,520 requests for user date, while Germany made 2,344 and Italy made 1,816.

India tops the list of governments that blocked Facebook content in their countries, with 15,155 posts being restricted, followed by Turkey, which blocked 4,496 posts.

In contrast, the US did not block any content and the UK made only 8 requests to block content.

Overall, a comparison with 2014’s report shows that government requests for user data have increased by 18% and content restrictions have increased by 112%.

Facebook said most government requests related to criminal cases, such as robberies or kidnappings, and typically relates to basic subscriber information such as IP addresses or account content.

The social networking firm said it does not provide any government with “back doors” or direct access to people’s data.

Read more about transparency reports

“We scrutinise each request we receive for legal sufficiency, whether from an authority in the US, Europe, or elsewhere. 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.

“To protect people’s information, we will continue to apply a rigorous approach to every government request we receive. We’ll also keep working with partners in industry and civil society to push governments around the world to reform surveillance in a way that protects their citizens’ safety and security while respecting their rights and freedoms.”

Facebook is among the largest US firms that publish transparency reports in an attempt to repair the damage done by the Edward Snowden’s revelations about US mass surveillance of the internet.

Technology and internet firms such as Facebook, Google, Apple and Microsoft have all begun publishing so-called transparency reports in the past two years.

The companies are concerned they will lose users’ trust and publishing transparency reports is part of an industry effort to distance itself from government surveillance programmes such as Prism.

Read more on Privacy and data protection