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Facebook gives UK government data for 68 per cent of profiles

Facebook has published figures on requests made by governments around the world for data on user’s profiles. 

The first ‘Global Government Requests Report’ published by the social network shows that in the first six months of 2013, UK government requested data on 2,337 profiles. Facebook gave up the goods on 1,975 profiles, or 68 per cent. 

Overall, the UK racked up the third biggest score for data requests. India took second place, requesting data on 4,144 profiles (Facebook gave up 3,245) and the United States took first, asking Facebook for data on roughly 21,000 profiles and only getting 12,000. 

‘I always feel like somebody’s watching me…’

Read more about the Communications Data Bill The figures for US government requests are approximates only because the US has refused to be totally transparent here. 

A statement released by Facebook says that data requests from governments refer to basic subscriber information which may not be available if someone has chosen to make their profile details private. In some cases, the requests go deeper: 

“Governments make requests to Facebook and many other companies seeking account information in official investigations. The vast majority of these requests relate to criminal cases, such as robberies or kidnappings. In many of these cases, these government requests seek basic subscriber information, such as name and length of service. Other requests may also seek IP address logs or actual account content.”

Colin Stretch, general counsel for Facebook says that each request is scrutinised for legal sufficiency and any request that is too broad or vague is rejected. 

Even so, these figures must seem like drops in the ocean following the exposure of PRISM and Tempora, controversial surveillance programs conducted by the US and UK governments. 
 
Governments which collect data by intercepting undersea cables do not necessarily need to go cap in hand to social networks, suggesting that official American and British data requests amount to little more than a dog and pony show. 

Campaign group Privacy International welcomes Facebook’s inauguraral report but adds that it feels ‘disturbingly hollow’ saying in a press release that “companies like Facebook are left with the burden of having to determine what information may be ‘lawfully’ demanded by each country, and deciding what they can or cannot release.”

Privacy International calls for a stronger legal framework which all governments around the world must abide by when collecting data on citizens. 

In March, it was revealed that the UK government made the highest number of requests for people’s Skype details. The Communications Data Bill, which proposed to collect information on citizen’s web habits, appears to have been kiboshed by Nick Clegg. But even this seemingly hasn’t stopped the government from mining data us via other means. 

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