Facebook announced this week that government requests for user data have reached their highest levels ever, with 41,214 requests coming in the first half of 2015 alone. The site’s biannual report on government data requests noted an 18 percent jump in these requests between the first half of this year and the last half of 2014.
Perhaps most disappointingly, the U.S. leads the world in data requests by a wide margin. Indeed, our country’s government has placed 17,577 total requests that affected 26,579 users. What’s worse, Facebook actually complied with about 80 percent of those requests.
Of course, Facebook defended its data practices vigorously, noting that it does not provide the government with direct access to user data, and that the site weighs each request before answering it.
“As we have emphasized before, Facebook does not provide any government with ‘back doors’ or direct access to people’s data,” wrote Chris Sonderby, Facebook’s deputy general counsel, in a blog post. “We scrutinize 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.”
Facebook should be commended for its honesty in reporting these data requests, but it’s still troubling that so many of them come from our own government.