The number of government requests for account data about Facebook users continues to increase, with the social media website claiming that the company received 35,051 data requests from world governments between July and December 2014, a slight rise on the figure of 34,946 for January to June.
The US was once again the highest-ranked country, with various US government agencies making 14,274 separate requests for information about 21,731 individual Facebook accounts. Facebook released at least some data to the US government in 79 per cent of cases.
Meanwhile, the past six months saw the British government make 2,366 requests for information on about 2,890 Facebook accounts, with data being released in 75 per cent of cases.
Government requests for data often pertain to investigations into criminal behaviour and Facebook insists it has “strict processes in place to handle these requests”.
Writing in a blog post, Monika Bickert, Facebook’s head of global policy management, said: “We publish this information because we want people to know the extent and nature of the requests we receive from governments and the policies we have in place to process them.
“Moving forward, we will continue to scrutinise each government request and push back when we find deficiencies.” Bickert suggested that Facebook will do what it can to ensure schemes such as the US National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance programme, revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden, do not restrict people’s rights.
“We will also continue to push governments around the world to reform their surveillance practices in a way that maintains the safety and security of their people, while ensuring their rights and freedoms are protected,” she wrote.
Facebook, Apple, Google, Microsoft and others joined together to establish Reform Government Surveillance last November to urge the US Senate to limit NSA data gathering on citizens.
However, according to an NSA lawyer, Facebook, Apple, Google and other technology firms all knew about the Prism surveillance and data collection programmes, despite protesting otherwise.
Edward Snowden has also previously criticised online companies such as Facebook and Google, describing them as “dangerous services” that compromise the privacy of users.