Government Requests to Facebook for Personal Data: Which Country Really Made the Most?

Last week Facebook released their Global Government Requests Report offering details on official requests for personal data from governments around the world. The report shed light on the number of data requests Facebook actually received, how many users or accounts were affected by those requests and the percentage of requests with which Facebook was required to comply.


9 September 2013

Ever since Edward Snowden leaked information on the US government’s collection of personal data, data privacy has been a major topic in the news. Government officials and privacy activists continue to debate on the appropriate level of access to personal data and the right to disclosure. While it’s important for governments to keep people safe, do they need to be transparent? Is there a gray area?

Last week Facebook released their Global Government Requests Report offering details on official requests for personal data from governments around the world. The report shed light on the number of data requests Facebook actually received, how many users or accounts were affected by those requests and the percentage of requests with which Facebook was required to comply.

According to Facebook’s data, the United States made the most requests, asking for data on between 20,000 and 21,000 users. Second to the US was India, with government officials asking for information on 4,144 users.

Government Requests Made to Facebook

Source: Facebook

One might assume that a larger number of requests in a particular country could translate into greater privacy issues, but the social marketer in me would guess that the US and India had the most requests because they have the most Facebook users.

With that in mind, I wanted to look at the data on an even playing field. To really see which country had the most requests comparatively, we added the total number of Facebook users per country into the equation. Taking into consideration the rate of requests per 1,000 users, would Facebook’s results shift?

As a matter of fact, they did. In this case, the top 20 countries with the most Facebook users didn’t necessarily have the highest rate of requests. Germany and Italy were one and two respectively, with rate of requests of 0.074 and 0.073 – ahead of the United States, India and the UK. Comparatively, the United States had a rate of requests of 0.069.

What do these numbers tell us about privacy?

First, common assumptions about which governments are most likely to request and access personal information may be wrong. News about PRISM has heightened the perception that the US government is especially likely to access personal data, but the Facebook numbers don’t support this.

Second, the likelihood of governments requesting and accessing data may relate to data privacy laws and processes in different jurisdictions. This might explain why European countries are higher on our ranking.

Finally, the Facebook data may have broad implications for organizations concerned about where their data is housed and processed. If data privacy is a concern, the ranking might suggest a good home for your valuable files.

To learn more about Facebook’s Global Government Requests Report, please visit their guidelines: https://www.facebook.com/safety/groups/law/guidelines .

Facebook Chart 2
Source: Internet World Stats

 



Meagan Parrish

Meagan Parrish

Meagan Parrish is the Senior Manager of Social Media at Intralinks. She is responsible for social media strategy development and the communications for Intralinks' online communities. Meagan has been creating social media strategies for a variety of companies across verticals for the past several years. She holds Bachelor degrees in Marketing and Finance, with a minor in English Literature.