Skip to main content

Government requests for your Facebook data continues to grow, report says

Facebook News Feed
Image used with permission by copyright holder
Seventy-eight thousand, eight hundred and ninety — that is the number of times Facebook received government requests to access user data worldwide, and in over half of the cases from the U.S., non-disclosure prevented the user from even knowing about the access. The numbers come from Facebook’s Transparency Report (previously called the Government Requests Report) covering the first six months of 2017. The report, released on Monday, December 18, also tallies the numbers of requests for potential intellectual property violation, such as stolen copyrighted images and counterfeit products, for both Facebook and Instagram.

The government requests for data from Facebook increased by 21 percent from the previous six months, jumping up from 64,279. The U.S. was responsible for more than 32,000 of those requests, with about 85 percent of them resulting in providing some level of data. Facebook says that, in the U.S., 57 percent of those requests included a non-disclosure clause, which meant that Facebook could not alert the user to the government’s request for access.

The jump in content restrictions or requests to remove content saw an even larger jump, but one particular incident drove those numbers up higher than normal. Facebook says that a video of a school shooting in Monterrey, Mexico was removed 20,506 times. That incident alone accounts for most but not all of the increase in content restrictions from the previous report, with those numbers jumping up to 28,036 compared to 6,944.

When the transparency report first launched in 2013, the number of requests for data was only about 25,000 worldwide. Since then, Facebook’s user count has nearly doubled, however, up from 1.15 billion to 2 billion users active every month.

While Facebook reveals this data every six months, the social media platform is now expanding the report to also include requests for intellectual property violations. Users reported copyright violations some 224,464 times, while trademark violations were 41,854. The report also includes reports for counterfeits, which hit 14,279. Instagram, meanwhile, had about 70,000 reports for copyright, around 16,500 for trademark and about 10,000 for counterfeits.

As the first time the company has reported on intellectual property, there is no data to compare the numbers to, but in all three categories, for both Facebook and Instagram, the number of reports was higher in June than January, suggesting an increase in the number of reports from the start of the year.

“We believe that sharing information about IP reports we receive from rights holders is an important step toward being more open and clear about how we protect the people and businesses that use our services,” wrote Chris Sonderby, Facebook’s deputy general counsel. “Our Transparency Report describes these policies and procedures in more detail, along with the steps we’ve taken to safeguard the people who use Facebook and keep them informed about IP.”

Both the government requests and the IP reports can be accessed from Facebook’s transparency webpage.

Editors' Recommendations

Hillary K. Grigonis
Hillary never planned on becoming a photographer—and then she was handed a camera at her first writing job and she's been…
You will soon be able to migrate your Facebook photos and videos to Google Photos
close up of someone deleting the Facebook app off their iPhone

Facebook will soon let you easily migrate those hundreds of old photos and videos you uploaded ages ago to other services like Google Photos. In a blog post, the social network said it’s rolling out a new tool in Ireland that allows you to port your Facebook media without having to manually download and upload it someplace else.

The announcement is the result of Facebook’s participation in the Data Transfer Project, an open-source initiative to enable cross-platform data migration between various platforms. Facebook has been a member of the project for a while along with Apple, Google, Twitter, and more. Incidentally, the tools that allow you to download all your Facebook or Google data were based on the code developed through the Data Transfer Project as well.

Read more
Private data of some Facebook and Twitter users leaked through malicious apps
mark zuckerberg speaking in front of giant digital lock

On Monday, November 25, Facebook and Twitter said private data of "hundreds of their users" was compromised through malicious third-party Android apps. The social media companies were tipped off by a team of security researchers who discovered that a software developer kit called One Audience allowed developers to access personal information they weren’t supposed to.

In addition to data such as email addresses and usernames, the vulnerability also exposed users’ recent tweets if they logged into those bad apps with their Twitter account. While the report doesn’t share specifics on the Android apps, CNBC says popular photo-editing apps like Giant Square and Photofy may be among them -- the former of which has already been taken down from the Google Play Store.

Read more
Documents show Facebook used user data as bargaining chip against competitors
mark zuckerberg speaking in front of giant digital lock

Leaked documents show that Facebook used user data as a bargaining chip with its advertising partners and leveraged the data against its competitors. 

NBC News first reported on the confidential documents in April that contained Facebook’s internal communications from 2011-2015 as part of an ongoing lawsuit. The newly leaked documents — about 7,000 pages in total — shed light on how CEO Mark Zuckerberg used users’ data as leverage for company partnerships.

Read more