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Facebook opened up the accounts of 38,000 individuals following government requests and demands for user data over the last six months, including at least 11,000 such requests from U.S. authorities.
In its first Global Government Requests Report, the social networking giant said it put in place stringent processes to handle all government data requests. The report, which covers the first 6 months of 2013, ending June 30, said it opened access to accounts on 80 percent of the requests from U.S. officials, providing access to data on at least 20,000 user accounts.
"We scrutinize each request for legal sufficiency under our terms and the strict letter of the law, and require a detailed description of the legal and factual bases for each request," Facebook said in its report, issued Tuesday on the social network. "We fight many of these requests, pushing back when we find legal deficiencies and narrowing the scope of overly broad or vague requests."
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Facebook said it received requests from more than 70 countries, but the bulk of the data was released to U.S. law enforcement, according to the report made available only to Facebook users.
The Facebook report follows a litany of reports on an extensive U.S. surveillance program that stem from the leak of classified documents by NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden. The leaks have fueled discussion over the extent of the government's reach on cloud-based user data and a debate about individual privacy when using online services. Earlier this year, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Apple released similar reports generally documenting the number of government requests each service received for user data.
The transparency reports are a positive step by Internet services and help increase the discussion on privacy and trust when using online services, said Cameron Camp, a U.S.-based security researcher at Bratislava, Slovakia-based antivirus vendor ESET. People are realizing that the Internet is a public space, Camp said.
"There's been an erosion of trust across the landscape," Camp told CRN. "There's an uncomfortable tension, but also a realization that it is unrealistic to expect a service that you don't pay for won't use your data in some way."