Government requests for Facebook user data continue to increase worldwide

Facebook continues to see increased requests for user data from governments worldwide, according to its latest transparency report.

The social network first introduced the reports, which give raw figures on data requests and data granted, in 2013 to help increase visibility on government behavior. Facebook is limited on what information it can share, but sheer numbers show requests hit 78,890 in the first half of 2017, an increase of 33 percent year-on-year and 23 percent on the previous six-month period.

The U.S., India, UK, Germany and France were the most active in making data requests, accounting for 41 percent, 12 percent, nine percent, seven percent and six percent of the numbers, respectively. Each of those country’s government had more than 50 percent of requests granted, with the U.S. (85 percent), UK (90 percent) and France (74 percent) notable for higher rates.

The amount of data restricted by Facebook to governments also shot up in the first half of 2017 to reach 28,036, up from 6,944 the previous quarter and 9,666 one year prior. However, much of that figure can be traced back to a tragic shooting at a school in Mexico, which resulted in Facebook restricting access to 20,506 pieces of content.

Despite the disclosures there remains plenty that Facebook can’t say, particularly around the nature and intention of data requests from governments. That’s particularly true in the U.S..

“Fifty-seven percent of the data requests we received from law enforcement in the U.S. contained a non-disclosure order that prohibited us from notifying the user, up from 50 percent in our last report,” Facebook Deputy General Counsel Chris Sonderby wrote in a blog post.

Facebook’s U.S. government score for the first half of 2017

Beyond state-related communication, Facebook has also introduced more accountability on IP-related content requests for the first time.

More than 200,000 copyright requests were made related to Facebook content, with 68 percent actioned on and 1.8 million pieces of content “actioned.” Some 70,000 requests for copyright came to Instagram, with 685,000 pieces of content removed.

Over 110,000 pieces of Facebook content were removed for trademark infringement, with over 37,000 removed from Instagram.

The numbers are quite revealing when it comes to claims of counterfeits. Facebook said 217,265 of content on its social network were removed after it acted on 81 percent of 14,279 claims in the first half of the year. On Instagram, it took action against 108,094 posts following 10,231 counterfeit claims.

Counterfeit claims against Instagram content rose steadily in the first half of 2017, with June’s complaint number (2,191 reports) higher than the number of complaints filed for Facebook in April and close to other months. Still, the actual number of content that was taken action against was lower on Instagram than Facebook, but it is a glimpse of the rise of Instagram as a medium of influence and importance even if Facebook remains the larger social network in terms of content.