Facebook now documents requests for information it receives from governments

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Facebook has released its first-ever transparency report, which breaks data requests on users.
Facebook has released its first-ever transparency report, which breaks data requests on users.

Facebook this week released its first-ever transparency report, which highlights the number of times that governments across the world seek out member information on Facebook's more than a billion accounts. It is an undertaking that Google is well-known for maintaining since 2010, expanding its own along the way.

Known as the "Global Government Requests Report," it covers the first six months of 2013 through June 30.

The United States easily leads the pack in terms of total requests.

What is notable is that the U.S. made between 11,000 and 12,000 of them involving between 20,000 and 21,000 Facebook users or accounts. That trumps the Indian government's second-highest number of requests, around 3,200.

It is also roughly 3,000 more requests than the U.S. asked of Google in the first six months of 2012, which represented roughly 16,000 of Google's members.

Altogether, Facebook received more than 25,000 requests on roughly 38,000 of  users or accounts from governments in approximately 70 countries. It released information to the U.S. about 79 percent of the time and, overall, user information was released on about 60 percent of total requests.

“We have stringent processes in place to handle all government data requests,” Colin Stretch, Facebook general counsel, wrote in the report. “We believe this process protects the data of the people who use our service, and requires governments to meet a very high legal bar with each individual request in order to receive any information about any of our users.”

Subpoenas, court orders and search warrants are some of the things Facebook needs to release member information, Stretch said, explaining in the report that Facebook respects its users by poring over legal requests, fighting them to the best of its ability, and only releasing basic information, such as names, when mandatory.

Twitter also produces transparency reports, but receives far fewer requests. In the first half of 2013, Twitter reported having received 902 requests from the U.S. on 1,319 users, with Twitter providing information on 67 percent of requests.

Twitter also has attempted to resist requests, including one involving an Occupy Wall Street protester.

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