Governments around the world are increasingly requesting Facebook user data

Government requests for Facebook user data rising

Facebook saw an 18 per cent increase in requests for user data by governments in the first half of 2015, according to the social media firm’s biannual report.

In the second half of 2014, Facebook handled 35,051 such requests while in the first half of 2015 the number jumped to 41,214.

The company, which started revealing information about government requests two years ago, cannot provide details of individual requests, which is prohibited by law.

Governments frequently request basic subscriber information, IP addresses or account content, including people's posts online. Most of the requests, Facebook said, are related to investigations of criminal cases.

The majority of the government requests - regarding 26,579 accounts - came from US law-enforcement agencies, up from 21,731 accounts in the second half of 2014.

France, Germany and Britain also made up a large percentage of the requests and had far more content restricted in 2015. Some of the content taken down in Germany, for example, may relate to Holocaust denial, Facebook said.

India and Turkey were responsible for most of the content taken down for violating local laws. India had 15,155 pieces of content restricted - nearly triple the amount in the second half of 2014 - while Turkey had 4,496, up from 3,624.

In India alone, the number of Facebook users grew from 70 million in June 2014 to more than 190 million users in mid-2015. Globally, the social network saw an increase from 1.4bn users in late 2014 to 1.55bn this summer.

Government access to personal data from telephone and Web companies has become a contentious privacy issue since the revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden about government’s surveillance programmes and practices.

The technology industry has pushed for greater transparency on government data requests, seeking to shake off concerns that it is working with the government and violating user privacy.

Read the full report here

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