Singapore among world governments that requested Facebook details about users

Government agencies from around the world, including those from Singapore, requested information on more than 38,000 Facebook users in the first half of this year, the tech giant revealed on Wednesday.

Facebook was required by law to disclose at least some data in 70 per cent of user-data requests by the Singapore Government.

This was revealed in a report released yesterday by the online social-networking site, which detailed the number of requests for user data it had received from over 70 governments worldwide.

This was a first for Facebook.

According to Facebook's report, which covers the first six months of this year, the Singapore Government had sent in 107 requests for information about 117 accounts.

The report said the "vast majority" of requests from governments were made to facilitate official investigations related to criminal cases, such as robberies or kidnappings. Some also pertained to issues of national security.

Government requests mostly seek basic subscriber information, such as name and length of service. But there were some cases in which requests were made for IP address logs or actual account content, said the report.

When contacted on the Facebook data requests, a Ministry of Home Affairs spokesman said: "As part of the evidence-gathering process provided for under the law, law-enforcement agencies in Singapore may request from persons or organisations information that will help in their investigations into criminal cases."

The United States had the most number of data requests of between 11,000 and 12,000, accounting for almost half of all requests globally.

The country's requests for information involved 20,000 to 21,000 accounts, and some data had been produced for 79 per cent of its requests.

In the report, Facebook general counsel Colin Stretch said: "As we have made clear in recent weeks, we have stringent processes in place to handle all government data requests."

Mr Stretch said Facebook fought many of these requests, "pushing back when we find legal deficiencies and narrowing the scope of overly broad or vague requests".

"We believe that while governments have an important responsibility to keep people safe, it is possible to do so while also being transparent," he added.

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tsjwoo@sph.com.sg

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Among the government agencies from around the world that requested information was the Singapore Government who made some 107 requests on 117 individuals over the six- month period, Facebook said in its first global government requests report. The company complied with 70 per cent of these requests.

Get the full story from The Straits Times.

Data Requests
CountryTotal requestsUsers / Accounts requestedPercentage of requests where some data produced
Albania61283 %
Argentina15221827 %
Australia54660164 %
Austria354117 %
Bangladesh1120 %
Barbados330 %
Belgium15016970 %
Bosnia and Herzegovina41125 %
Botswana370 %
Brazil71585733 %
Bulgaria110 %
Cambodia110 %
Canada19221944 %
Chile21534068 %
Colombia274115 %
Costa Rica460 %
Croatia220 %
Cyprus3433 %
Czech Republic101360 %
Denmark111155 %
Ecuador230 %
Egypt8110 %
El Salvador220 %
Finland121575 %
France1,5471,59839 %
Germany1,8862,06837 %
Greece12214154 %
Hong Kong11100 %
Hungary252436 %
Iceland11100 %
India3,2454,14450 %
Ireland344071 %
Israel11313250 %
Italy1,7052,30653 %
Ivory Coast440 %
Japan110 %
Kosovo2110 %
Lithuania6717 %
Macedonia91133 %
Malaysia71970 %
Malta899760 %
Mexico7812737 %
Mongolia220 %
Montenegro220 %
Nepal3333 %
Netherlands111536 %
New Zealand10611958 %
Norway161631 %
Pakistan354777 %
Panama220 %
Peru131415 %
Philippines4425 %
Poland2331589 %
Portugal17721342 %
Qatar330 %
Romania163663 %
Russia110 %
Serbia110 %
Singapore10711770 %
Slovenia6850 %
South Africa1490 %
South Korea71514 %
Spain47971551 %
Sweden546654 %
Switzerland323613 %
Taiwan22932984 %
Thailand250 %
Turkey9617047 %
Uganda110 %
United Kingdom1,9752,33768 %
United States11,000 - 12,00020,000 - 21,00079 %

 

Global Government Requests Report

Transparency and trust are core values at Facebook. We strive to embody them in all aspects of our services, including our approach to responding to government data requests. We want to make sure that the people who use our service understand the nature and extent of the requests we receive and the strict policies and processes we have in place to handle them.

We are pleased to release our first Global Government Requests Report, which details the following:

The report details the following:

- Which countries requested information from Facebook about our users - The number of requests received from each of those countries - The number of users/user accounts specified in those requests - The percentage of these requests in which we were required by law to disclose at least some data

The report covers the first 6 months of 2013, ending June 30.

As we have made clear in recent weeks, we have stringent processes in place to handle all government data requests. We believe this process protects the data of the people who use our service, and requires governments to meet a very high legal bar with each individual request in order to receive any information about any of our users. We scrutinise 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. We fight many of these requests, pushing back when we find legal deficiencies and narrowing the scope of overly broad or vague requests. When we are required to comply with a particular request, we frequently share only basic user information, such as name.

More details about our approach to responding to government requests can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/safety/groups/law/guidelines/.

We hope this report will be useful to our users in the ongoing debate about the proper standards for government requests for user information in official investigations. And while we view this compilation as an important first report, it will not be our last. In coming reports, we hope to be able to provide even more information about the requests we receive from law enforcement authorities.

As we have said many times, we believe that while governments have an important responsibility to keep people safe, it is possible to do so while also being transparent. Government transparency and public safety are not mutually exclusive ideals. Each can exist simultaneously in free and open societies, and they help make us stronger. We strongly encourage all governments to provide greater transparency about their efforts aimed at keeping the public safe, and we will continue to be aggressive advocates for greater disclosure.

- Colin Stretch, Facebook General Counsel

FAQs

What is a government data request?

Governments make requests to Facebook and many other companies seeking account information in official investigations. The vast majority of these requests relate to criminal cases, such as robberies or kidnappings. In many of these cases, these government requests seek basic subscriber information, such as name and length of service. Other requests may also seek IP address logs or actual account content. We have strict guidelines in place to deal with all government data requests: https://www.facebook.com/safety/groups/law/guidelines/

Does this report contain every request you have received from every government around the world during the time period stipulated?

Yes. This report contains every request for user data we received for the first six months of 2013.

Does this report contain requests related to criminal matters, or national security matters, or both?

The report contains the total number of requests we've received from each government, including both criminal and national security requests.

Why did you report the numbers for the United States in ranges?

We have reported the numbers for all criminal and national security requests to the maximum extent permitted by law. We continue to push the United States government to allow more transparency regarding these requests, including specific numbers and types of national security-related requests. We will publish updated information for the United States as soon as we obtain legal authorisation to do so.

Will Facebook start releasing these reports regularly?

Yes. It is our intention to release these reports regularly in the future.