Facebook has released a tally sheet enumerating how many times governments have requested information on individual users over the first six months of 2013. In all, there have been more than 25,000 requests from national governments worldwide – and, as you might have guessed, the U.S. is at the front of the pack.
The release, dubbed the “Global Government Requests Report,” not only shows the frequency with which Facebook is approached by governments requesting information, but the number of times Facebook has complied.
Facebook honored 79 percent of the estimated 12,000 U.S. government requests it received in an effort to gain information on an estimated 20,000 individual users.
As Adi Robertson of tech website The Verge explains, the nature of the requests range from trifling to significant.
The table lists anything made by any government branch, from standard law enforcement to more covert activities, and it includes requests for all kinds of information. That means we’re looking at everything from a police subpoena asking for a burglar’s account email address to a secret court order for the IP address of a protestor.
… These numbers appear to have risen slightly from Facebook’s estimates in 2012. Unlike all other country data, the US numbers can’t even be reported exactly. The gag orders associated with FBI national security letters and FISA court requests make it difficult to talk about many orders at all, and Facebook was only allowed to start mentioning them in ranges in June.
As you’ll see on the Facebook press release page, the U.S. is indeed the only country whose numbers are mere estimates; all others are presented with single-digit precision.