Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg stands infront of his company's logo

Rise in Facebook data snooping; FBI granted hacking powers

Facebook has alleged that government requests for account data increased by 13 per cent in the second half of 2015, with the United States and India making the most requests.

Government requests for account data increased to 46,763 from 41,214 in the first half of the year, the company said in a biannual report. The number of requests jumped 18 per cent in the first half of the year.

Access to personal data from telephone and internet companies by governments has become a contentious issue since former US spy agency contractor Edward Snowden leaked classified details of a program to collect bulk telephone metadata in 2013.

Governments often request basic subscriber information, IP addresses or account content, including people's posts online.

Facebook has about 1.65 billion regular users, or about one in every four people in the world. It said that 60 per cent of requests in the United States had a non-disclosure order prohibiting the company from notifying the user of the government request.

This was the first time Facebook has included details on non-disclosure orders since it started issuing the global requests reports in 2013.

Microsoft has also become entangled in data protection issues with its email services. The technology giant recently launched a lawsuit against the US government to give it the right to inform its users when a federal agency is snooping on their emails.

The revelations about the increase in data requests comes as the Supreme Court yesterday approved a rule change that would allow US judges to issue search warrants for access to computers located in any jurisdiction, despite opposition from civil liberties groups who say it will greatly expand the FBI's hacking authority.

US Chief Justice John Roberts transmitted the rules to Congress, which will have until 1 December to reject or modify the changes to the federal rules of criminal procedure. If Congress does not act, the rules would take effect automatically.

The US Justice Department, which has pushed the rule change since 2013, has described it as a minor modification needed to modernise the criminal code for the digital age, and has said it would not permit searches or seizures that are not already legal.

Yet Google and civil liberties groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Access Now contend that the change would vastly expand the FBI’s ability to conduct mass hacks on computer networks.

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