Facebook said Tuesday that the number of requests from governments around the world for information about users of the social networking site increased by about a quarter in the first half of 2014, compared to the second half of last year. The U.S. government led the world's nations in the number of requests, the company said.
According to the social networking giant, governments made 34, 946 requests -- an increase of 24 percent over the second half of 2013 -- for users’ personal data in the first six months of 2014. During the same time, the amount of content restricted because of local laws rose about 19 percent.
“We scrutinize every government request we receive for legal sufficiency under our terms and the strict letter of the law, and push back hard when we find deficiencies or are served with overly broad requests,” Chris Sonderby, Facebook’s deputy general counsel, said in a blog post.
According to Facebook’s third Government Requests Report, the U.S. government made 15, 433 requests, which was the highest among 84 countries listed in the report. The Indian government was second with 4, 559 requests, followed by Germany with 2, 537 requests.
Facebook said that it has challenged several search warrants issued by a court in New York over the past year. The warrants demanded that the company provide nearly all data from the accounts of nearly 400 Facebook users, making it the largest request the company has ever received.
“We’ve argued that these overly broad warrants violate the privacy rights of the people on Facebook and ignore constitutional safeguards against unreasonable searches and seizures,” Sonderby said. “Despite a setback in the lower court, we’re aggressively pursuing an appeal to a higher court to invalidate these sweeping warrants and to force the government to return the data it has seized.”
Facebook also said that it would continue to push governments for additional transparency and to reform their surveillance practices.
In September, Google said that it had received about 32,000 data requests from governments around the world in the first half of 2014, 15 percent more than in the latter half of 2013, and 150 percent more than the number of requests the company received when it started publishing transparency reports in 2009.