Technology

Facebook gave up data on 38,000 users

In 2013, officials from 74 countries, primarily the US, sought info on user accounts from the social media giant

Seventy-four different countries have sought information from Facebook on user accounts.
Kimihiro Hoshino/AFP/Getty Images

Government agents from 74 countries sought information on about 38,000 Facebook users in the first half of this year, with about half the requests coming from the United States, the company said Tuesday.

The social-networking giant is the latest technology company to release figures on how often governments seek information about its users. Microsoft and Google have done the same.

It's difficult to glean much from Facebook's data, besides the fact that, as users around the globe flocked to the world's largest social network, police and intelligence agencies followed.

Facebook and Twitter have become organizing platforms for activists which has made them targets for governments.

"We fight many of these requests, pushing back when we find legal deficiencies and narrowing the scope of overly broad or vague requests," Colin Stretch, Facebook's general counsel said in a blog post. "When we are required to comply with a particular request, we frequently share only basic user information, such as name."

Facebook and other technology companies have been criticized for helping the National Security Agency secretly collect data on customers. Federal law gives government the authority to demand data without specific warrants, and while companies can fight requests in secret court hearings, it's an uphill battle.

Facebook turned over some data in response to about 60 percent of those requests.

It's not clear from the Facebook data how many of the roughly 26,000 government requests on 38,000 users were for law-enforcement purposes and how many were for intelligence gathering.

Technology and government officials have said criminal investigations are far more common than national security matters as a justification for demanding information from companies.

The numbers are imprecise because the federal government forbids companies from revealing how many times they've been ordered to turn over information about their customers. Facebook released only a range of figures for the United States.

The company said it planned to start releasing such figures regularly.

With Al Jazeera and wire services

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