US LAW enforcement agencies asked Facebook for information on over 45,000 people last year as part of surveillance and counterterrorism efforts and the prosecution of criminal cases.
The latest Global Government Requests Report from the social network shows US authorities made almost 30,000 requests to the social network for information on 45,398 users. It was successful in roughly 80% of cases.
Facebook says on its website that the "vast majority" of requests related to criminal cases "such as robberies and kidnappings". But in a blog post announcing the data release the company said at least some of the requests were the subject of the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a law covering surveillance of people spying or involved in terrorism against the US on behalf of foreign powers. Others were served through National Security Letters, a tool used by the FBI to combat international terrorism.
Facebook also revealed that it handed the UK government and law enforcement agencies information on over 3,800 people last year as part of criminal cases. UK authorities asked for information on 5,509 users, with Facebook handing over information in roughly 70% of cases. The figure compares to a total of 4,614 requests made by UK authorities in 2013. While nowhere near the scale of the US, UK authorities are still among the most active in the world in using Facebook as an information resource.
Facebook's head of global policy management Monika Bickert said in a blog post: "We publish this information because we want people to know the extent and nature of the requests we receive from governments and the policies we have in place to process them.
"Moving forward, we will continue to scrutinize each government request and push back when we find deficiencies. We will also continue to push governments around the world to reform their surveillance practices in a way that maintains the safety and security of their people while ensuring their rights and freedoms are protected."