Government requests for Facebook user data continue to increase in Canada and worldwide

Government requests for Facebook user data are on the rise in Canada and so is the frequency with which the company is handing over at least some of that information – according to its own report.

Facebook released its Transparency Report Monday for the first half of 2017. Previously called the Government Requests Report, the document contains information about government requests for account data, the number of times Facebook responded to requests and content restrictions.

In Canada, there were 1,004 requests for user data from governments between January and June of this year, which was the same rate during the same period in 2016.

However, since 2013, government requests for user data have increased by more than 79 per cent.

In 2013, which is how far back Facebook’s transparency reports go, the number of government requests for user data was 366. That number had grown to 1,777 by the end of 2016.

Between January and June of this year, 1,243 user accounts were referenced and 85 per cent of government requests for user data were responded to with at least some data.

During the same time in 2013, it was 44 per cent.

Facebook disabled one Canadian prisoner’s Facebook account during the first half of 2017 as well.

The spike in government requests for Facebook data is happening globally. Requests for account data jumped by 21 per cent globally compared to the second half of 2016, from 64,279 to 78,890.

Facebook says it reviews each request carefully.

“We continue to carefully scrutinize each request we receive for account data — whether from an authority in the U.S., Europe, or elsewhere — to make sure it is legally sufficient,” wrote Chris Sonderby, Facebook’s deputy general counsel in a statement Monday. “If a request appears to be deficient or overly broad, we push back, and will fight in court, if necessary.”

Fifty-seven percent of the data requests Facebook received from law enforcement in the U.S. contained a non-disclosure order that prohibited them from notifying the user. That was a 50 per cent increase from its last report in 2016.

For the first time, Facebook also expanded its report to provide data about reports from rights holders related to intellectual property.

In the first half of 2017, Facebook received 224,464 copyright reports about content on Facebook, 41,854 trademark reports and 14,279 counterfeit reports.

There were also 52 disruptions of Facebook services in nine countries in the first half of 2017, compared to 43 in 20 countries in the second half of 2016.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Alex Coop
Alex Coop
Former Editorial Director for IT World Canada and its sister publications.

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