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Facebook released its first Global Government Requests Report only a couple months after the news of PRISM hit, sending major tech companies into a reputation-defending tizzy.
Facebook’s transparency report includes all of the countries that have asked Facebook for data, the number of requests, and the number of people affected by those requests. It also assigns a percentage of requests received per country. In the the first six months of 2013 ending with June 30, the United States made up 79 percent of these requests. That’s around 11,000-12,000 data requests affecting over 20,000 accounts.
In June, news that a government surveillance program called PRISM roped in major tech companies to provide data to the government when demanded. This included reports that companies like Facebook, Google, and Apple had backdoors set up to allow the government a direct connection to their servers, which the companies consistently denied. Like all companies, however, Facebook and the like must comply with subpoenas for data.
In order to make sure these government data requests were happening above the table, Google followed by Twitter started releasing these transparency reports. They traditionally do not include information on National Security Letters, however, which are the highly secretive court orders approved by the an equally secretive court within the government.
Facebook says that its report includes both reports based on a criminal investigations as well as those relating to national security. However, Facebook used a range instead of exact number of requests for the United States, unlike the other countries in the report. This was like to skirt around the issue of National Security Letters and other highly protected requests.
“We have reported the numbers for all criminal and national security requests to the maximum extent permitted by law. We continue to push the United States government to allow more transparency regarding these requests, including specific numbers and types of national security-related requests. We will publish updated information for the United States as soon as we obtain legal authorization to do so,” said Facebook in the report.
It promises to continue releasing these reports in the future.