It appears that though the outrage over government surveillance has grown dramatically in the past year, it has not deterred government from seeking individual’s information. The drumbeat of persistent requests for data from media giants continues. In a recent disclosure Facebook revealed it has handed over thousands of pieces of information to the US government when ordered to do so –mainly by warrant and in some cases by subpoena.
More specifically, FB stated in its latest transparency report that it supplied law enforcement agencies with more than 18,700 pieces of information from user profiles as part of criminal investigations. This number represents compliance by them in 81 per cent of requests. That number only reflects US government involvement. The social media giant also complied with requests from German and French law enforcement agencies, though their requests were significantly smaller. FB reported that it acquiesced in about 35 per cent of the time with the French and Germans.
Facebook’s general counsel, Colin Stretch, stated the rationale driving disclosures: ’ When we receive a request for information, we carefully assess whether we are legally required to comply. As we have long emphasized, we push back on requests that are overly broad, vague or do comply with legal standards. When we are required to provide information, in most cases we share basic information only- such as name and IP address.”
It might be a small victory in that a warrant was needed in at about two-thirds of the cases in order to pry information from the company. At least Facebook is not caving in to simple demands for information. Still, FB produced data more than 84 per cent of the time when presented with a warrant. In other instances (more than 5000) a simple subpoena was enough for law enforcement to gain information.
The UK has also jumped into the picture. Facebook reports nearly 2000 requests for data on some 2300 accounts and complying with the UK in about 70 per cent of the cases.
In addition to requests for information, FB has been required to take down a few pieces of content as a result of court actions. This number pales in comparison to the purge it had to make of content in India. Citing criticism of religion, the Indian government requested that almost 5000 pieces of content be pulled.
One can only wonder in which direction things will go. Law enforcement remains adamant in its hunger for private information. The hope here is that media giants remain faithful to their users and their TOS commitments. It is also hoped that the public remains sufficiently agitated at undue government scrutiny and makes their feelings known to those in power. But for now, it appears to be business as usual.