In 2013, 74 countries asked Facebook for user data, and the social media giant was apparently happy to comply.
Joining Microsoft and Google, Facebook has released figures on how often governments seek information about its users. Government agents from 74 countries sought information on 38,000 Facebook users in the first half of 2013. Half of those requests came from the Unites States.
In a blog post, Facebook’s Colin Stretch says that the company pushes back on most data requests, and only comply in the rarest of circumstances (which still adds up to 38,000 users in six months). Additionally:
“When we are required to comply with a particular request, we frequently share only basic user information, such as name.”
Major tech companies like Facebook and Google have been criticized for their compliance with the NSA’s intelligence gathering initiatives. Out of 26,000 government requests to Facebook, it was unclear how many were for law enforcement purposes and how many were for intelligence gathering. Tech and gov’t spokespersons have said that most requests are usually for the purposes of criminal investigations.
But frankly, this should really freak you out.
Though you might not think that there’s much of interest on your Facebook page (and you’re probably right), social media has become a crucial instrument for activists around the world, and with these requests, user data could be used by governments to better identify ideological targets. Not terrorists of course, just people who want free speech and ridiculous stuff like that.
Colin Stretch leads his Facebook blog post with “transparency and trust are core values at Facebook,” language that is eerily similar to that used by U.S. pols in an effort to justify domestic spying programs spearheaded by the NSA. Though meant to ameliorate citizen concern, what they’re really saying is “we’re going to keep doing this frightening thing, we’re just going to be honest about it.”
That does not a “good guy” make, Facebook. It’s not whether it’s a secret, it’s that it’s happening.