Governments requesting more personal data from Facebook

Facebook personal data requests have been increasing since 2013. Governments worldwide have been increasingly requesting user data,according to Facebook’s Government Requests Report.

The page was created as an effort from the social network to be more transparent towards Facebook users. Facebook, also presents numbers on which content is restricted for violating local laws. According to the company a vast majority of the requests relate to criminal cases, such as robberies and kidnappings.

“Majority of requests coming from law enforcement agencies in the US”

How does Facebook handle personal data requests?

Facebook says it has strict processes in place to handle government requests, checking for their legal sufficiency. When analyzing the data, it’s clear that governments all over the world have been increasing the number of requests since 2013 until 2016. It’s not surprising to see the majority of requests coming from law enforcement agencies in the US.

14,736 requests out of 26,014 came from Search Warrants. Facebook also provides a more detailed account of US requests. Which include subpoenas and IP traces, you can find more information in the country’s page.

In December 2016, Facebook Deputy General Counsel Chris Sonderby stated that “Facebook does not provide governments with ‘back doors’ or direct access to people’s information.” However, there are still situations where the government does not have to give a specific reason why it’s requesting the data.

US Government can access personal data without legal justification

US Requests that fall under National Security Letters (NSL), do not need any legal justification. The NSLs prohibit Facebook from disclosing the exact numbers, raising some questions around user privacy.

“US Requests that fall under National Security Letters, do not need any legal justification”

While Facebook is making an effort towards transparency by creating a platform that shows the figures regarding data requests. It is clear that the US government still has significant access to user personal data.

Companies are leaning towards online services that guarantee privacy

Companies all over the world, are becoming increasingly aware of governments access to their company data. Many, are actively searching for services outside the US, to store their data. In Europe, companies tend to prefer European hosting due to the more favorable privacy laws.

Time will tell, if governments will continue to push for more access to personal data. The General Data Protection Regulation, will also change how businesses should handle data in Europe. This will also certainly impact governmental access to personal data. If you would like to read more read How will the GDPR impact your business?


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