Requests for personal data increase to 3,384 in the first six months of 2015, the social network reveals
Requests for Facebook users’ personal data have increased by 60 per cent in the UK in a year, with the social network fielding 3,384 demands in six months from the Government and law enforcement authorities.
Facebook’s latest Government Requests Report, released on Wednesday evening, revealed a significant rise in requests for information across the world.
Such requests can be made for different reasons, but Facebook says the vast majority relate to criminal investigations, including robberies, kidnappings and in some cases terrorism.
The data requested is often basic information, such as when a user has recently logged in, but authorities have also requested photos and private messages.
After the US and India, Facebook received more government requests in the UK than any other country. The revelations come amid growing scrutiny of official snooping on citizens, following last week’s publication of theInvestigatory Powers Bill, which overhauled the UK’s surveillance powers including requirements for internet providers to store browsing data.
During the first half of 2015, Facebook received 3,384 requests for data concerning 4,489 accounts. This was up from 2,110 requests in the same period a a year ago and 1,975 in the first half of 2013.
Facebook, which has more than 30 million users in the UK complied with 78 per cent of requests, up from 72 per cent a year ago.
In the wake of revelations from the whistleblower Edward Snowden, who alleged that the US government had widespread access to personal data held by technology companies, internet giants have taken to publishing regular transparency reports about official information requests.
“As we have emphasised before, Facebook does not provide any government with ‘back doors’ or direct access to people’s data,” it said.
“We scrutinize each request we receive for legal sufficiency, whether from an authority in the US, Europe, or elsewhere. If a request appears to be deficient or overly broad, we push back hard and will fight in court, if necessary.
“Over the last two years, we’ve regularly published information about the nature and extent of the requests we receive. To protect people’s information, we will continue to apply a rigorous approach to every government request we receive.
“We’ll also keep working with partners in industry and civil society to push governments around the world to reform surveillance in a way that protects their citizens’ safety and security while respecting their rights and freedoms.”
The UK was by far the biggest requester of Facebook data in the European Union, although France, Italy and Germany also requested thousands of account details.
The US requested 17,557 pieces of information, however, almost half the total. Facebook said total requests had increased by 18 per cent to 41,214.
Last week, Home Secretary Theresa May unveiled proposals for a so-called“Snoopers’ Charter”, the biggest overhaul of surveillance laws in 15 years.
The Investigatory Powers Bill would require tech firms to help decrypt personal communications if required to by warrant. Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook criticised the proposals this week, saying that “opening a backdoor could have dire consequences” for personal security.