On Tuesday, Facebook revealed that it has received requests from government agencies in 74 countries around the world asking for information on 38,000 Facebook users in the first half of 2013 alone. In the data released, it was revealed that Facebook has provided governments with some, but not all, of the information they’ve requested. This raises the question of what Facebook is handing over and why they deem it important enough to do so. However, the site emphasized that it agitates against these government requests as often as it can.
“We fight many of these requests, pushing back when we find legal deficiencies and narrowing the scope of overly broad or vague requests,” said Facebook’s general legal counsel Colin Stretch. “When we are required to comply with a particular request, we frequently share only basic user information, such as name.”
Facebook also announced that it will begin releasing these government request figures regularly, as Microsoft and Apple already do. However, the data Facebook provided brings up more questions than answers. 38,000 is a large figure, but Facebook did not provide much context for the information. For instance, how many of the requests came from international law enforcement agencies and how many deal with spying on users? It also remains unclear how Facebook identifies what information it deems necessary to hand over to the authorities and what facts it keeps close to the vest. These data requests are a good thing to know, but there are many more questions about it that remain unanswered.