SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook says government requests for consumer data surged in the first half of 2015.
Requests from around the world for information on users of Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram increased 18% to 41,214 from the first half of 2014.
The United States made more data requests than any other nation. It requested data about 26,579 accounts in the first half of 2015, up from 21,731 accounts in the second half of 2014, according to Facebook. In about 80% of the requests, Facebook provided some data.
Facebook was asked to take down 20,568 pieces of content in the first half of 2015, more than double the 9,707 requests it received in the second half of 2014. India made most of these requests, asking Facebook to restrict 15,155 pieces of content.
“Overall, we continue to see an increase in content restrictions and government requests for data globally,” Facebook’s deputy general counsel Chris Sonderby said in a blog post.
Facebook, which has 1.5 billion users, began providing biannual updates on government requests in August 2013 after Edward Snowden alleged U.S. tech companies, including Facebook, hand over personal information of users to national intelligence agencies.
The allegations threatened to undermine the trust consumers place in Facebook with the most intimate details of their lives. At the time, Facebook denied it gave the U.S. government special access to servers or complied with overly broad requests for users’ information and communication. The tech industry has continued to fight for greater transparency on government data requests to dispel concerns companies violate user privacy.
“As we have emphasized before, Facebook does not provide any government with ‘back doors’ or direct access to people’s data,” Sonderby said. “We scrutinize each request we receive for legal sufficiency, whether from an authority in the U.S., Europe or elsewhere. If a request appears to be deficient or overly broad, we push back hard and will fight in court, if necessary.”
Follow USA TODAY senior technology writer Jessica Guynn @jguynn
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