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Facebook reveals scale of US govt data queries

Authorities request details from over 18,000 user accounts in six months

Facebook reveals scale of US govt data queries
Facebook has been fighting a long battle with public perception concerning its reputation on privacy.

Facebook Inc reported that the US government had asked for information from 18,715 user accounts on the social network in the second half of last year, according to UK-based tech site The Register.

The requests were made by law enforcement officials in connection with criminal investigations and information requested is not always delivered. Investigators may only receive a subset of the data asked for and in other cases may be denied access completely. Facebook regularly reports the details of such processes in transparency reports.

The requests from July to December 2013 were spread over 12,598 separate calls for information, and Facebook disclosed that in 81% of cases, it had handed over at least some of the requested data.

Facebook's compliance with data requests was far lower in other nations. In Germany the company only granted 37.8% of applications and in France, 33.9%. However, the compliance rate in the UK was relatively high at 71.3%.

"When we receive a request for information, we carefully assess whether we are legally required to comply," said Facebook general counsel Colin Stretch.

"As we have long emphasised, we push back on requests that are overly broad, vague or do not comply with legal standards. When we are required to provide information, in most instances we share basic information only - such as name and IP address."

The figures reported were similar to those in the second half of 2012, which were reported last year in the wake of the Edward Snowden affair, where the former NSA contractor leaked information to world media about US surveillance programmes in which many US Web services companies were forced to participate.

Facebook has been fighting a long battle with public perception concerning its reputation on privacy and recently announced a number of changes to the way its platform warns users about data exposure risks. The company recently claimed its systems run 80trn checks per day on user accounts to safeguard account holders' privacy.

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