Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) updated its transparency report on Friday, revealing that for the second time that it's published information about how many requests for user data and content censorship it receives from governments worldwide, in the second half of 2013, the U.S. government asked Facebook for user data more times than any other government.
The U.S. led the way with 12,598 government requests for user data, pertaining to 18,715 Facebook accounts. That’s more than the next seven countries that made such requests (India, U.K., Italy, Germany, France, Brazil and Australia) combined. Facebook reported that it delivered data for 81 percent of those requests.
Unlike Facebook’s first transparency report, the social network's second report was allowed to clarify how many requests came from U.S. law enforcement as opposed to those that pertained to national security. While Facebook gave exact figures regarding law enforcement requests, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act only allows Facebook to report such numbers within ranges of 1,000. The most accurate figure Facebook could reveal was that it received between zero and 999 National Security Letters requesting user data.
National Security Letters are administrative subpoenas that secretly allow the FBI to ask telecommunications companies and Internet service providers for data about ordinary citizens as a result of terrorism investigations or other national security investigations. The letters are kept secret with gag orders that prevent anyone from either discussing them or even acknowledging their existence, if the FBI director authorizes a nondisclosure provision.
The good news for Americans is that the U.S. government didn’t make a single request to Facebook to censor content. India made the most censorship requests, by far. It asked Facebook to remove 4,765 pieces of content, more than all other countries in the world combined. Turkey came in second with 2,014 requests.
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Facebook’s latest transparency report included Instagram data in its overall numbers for the first time.
The data is similar to a report that Google released, which revealed that the U.S. made more requests for user data than any other country.