Government Requests for Facebook User Data Increasing

Type threatpost
Reporter Brian Donohue
Modified 2014-11-05T18:16:35


Facebook’s latest transparency report shows that U.S law enforcement agencies issued a greater number of total requests for user data related to criminal investigations in the first six months of 2014 than they have over any previous such period.

This report, per Justice Department reporting guidelines, breaks down into essentially two sections: very specific data about the number of requests for criminal investigative information and broad ranges of data concerning national security investigations.

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“We respond to valid requests relating to criminal cases,” Facebook officials said in a statement. “Each and every request we receive is checked for legal sufficiency and we reject or require greater specificity on requests that are overly broad or vague.”

In all the social networking giant says it received 15,433 total requests for U.S. user data related to 23,667 accounts. Of those requests, the company claims to have produced content for those law enforcement requests in 80.15 percent of cases.

These figures reflect only requests by U.S. law enforcement agencies for Facebook users in the U.S. There is data on such request regarding citizens of other countries in the full Facebook transparency report.

As a point of context, the figures cited above are vastly larger than those produced in a recent AOL transparency report from late last month.

Facebook is not including Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court orders in this report because, they say, their six month, Justice Department-enforced embargo period has not yet elapsed. In their most recent report, which covered the second half of 2013, Facebook received between zero and 999 FISA content requests impacting between 5,000 and 5,999 user accounts. They also received between zero and 999 non-content requests impacting as many accounts.

However the company is reporting that it received between zero and 999 National Security Letters impacting the same number of accounts – a similar figure to many of the company’s competitors.

Regarding specific request data, Facebook received 7,676 search warrants affecting 12,230 accounts, of which they produced some data 84.35 percent of the time. They also received 6,088 subpoenas for 9,661 accounts, at a compliance rate of 79.75 percent. They received 573 emergency disclosures (requiring immediate attention) affecting 677 accounts, complying 45.2 percent of the time.

The company complied with 85.06 percent of pen register/trap and trace orders after receiving 609 orders impacting 654 accounts. Facebook received an additional 211 court orders under “18 USC 2703(d)” impacting 287 accounts at a 77.73 percent compliance rate; 278 other types of court orders affecting 326 accounts at a 64.39 percent compliance rate; and six Title III orders affecting 13 accounts at a 83.33 percent compliance rate.

Earlier this week, Facebook announced that it has developed a .onion address where Tor users can connect anonymously to Facebook.