U.S. Tops List of Countries That Want to Know What You Do on Facebook

A new report from the social-media website shows the federal government wants users’ information — but for what?

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg smiles during an announcement at Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif.
National Journal
Marina Koren
Aug. 27, 2013, noon

Today, Face­book has more than 1 bil­lion act­ive users world­wide, span­ning 70 lan­guages and 210 coun­tries. But no coun­try cares as much about what those users are do­ing as the United States does, ac­cord­ing to a new re­port from the so­cial-me­dia net­work.

Al­though 75 per­cent of Face­book users live out­side the U.S., the coun­try tops the list of gov­ern­ments that re­quest user data. In just the first half of 2013, the U.S. gov­ern­ment, in­clud­ing both loc­al and na­tion­al se­cur­ity law en­force­ment, made between 11,000 and 12,000 re­quests for between 20,000 and 21,000 users’ in­form­a­tion. Face­book was re­quired by law to dis­close the data in 79 per­cent of these re­quests, the re­port states.

In­done­sia, the coun­try with the second-largest num­ber of users, doesn’t ap­pear on this re­port. In­dia, the third largest, made 3,245 re­quests cov­er­ing 4,144 users. For In­dia, Face­book com­plied half the time. Of course, the U.S. is also the coun­try with the largest num­ber of Face­book users in the world, which can skew the num­bers.

Face­book dis­closed data for 68 per­cent of the 1,975 re­quests for 2,337 users made by the U.K., which put in the second-highest num­ber of re­quests be­hind the U.S. In third was Ger­many with 1,886 and a com­pli­ance rate of 37 per­cent. Rus­sia made just one re­quest, which was denied.

While oth­er di­git­al gi­ants such as Google and Twit­ter have pre­vi­ously pub­lished re­ports on gov­ern­ment re­quests in the name of trans­par­ency, this is the first time Face­book is re­leas­ing such num­bers.

Face­book has proved use­ful in aid­ing in­vest­ig­a­tions without the use of leg­al pres­sure. One ex­ample is the New York Po­lice De­part­ment, which con­ducts reg­u­lar can­vasses of the net­work. One Brook­lyn pre­cinct cred­its these searches, made pos­sible by some crim­in­als’ lack of pri­vacy set­tings, with help­ing of­ficers col­lect 199 il­leg­al fire­arms last year.

But when law en­force­ment does re­quest private, per­son­al data, Face­book Gen­er­al Coun­sel Colin Stretch says that the so­cial-me­dia net­work doesn’t of­fer up user data as soon as gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials come call­ing. “We fight many of these re­quests, push­ing back when we find leg­al de­fi­cien­cies and nar­row­ing the scope of overly broad or vague re­quests,” Stretch writes in the re­port. “When we are re­quired to com­ply with a par­tic­u­lar re­quest, we fre­quently share only ba­sic user in­form­a­tion, such as name.”

But some­times, it stands to reas­on, Face­book may give up more than just their users’ names. What that in­form­a­tion is re­mains to be seen — Stretch prom­ised the re­port isn’t the last of its kind, and fu­ture ones will in­clude more in­form­a­tion about the nature of the re­quests. And pulling user in­form­a­tion is easy enough, even for the users them­selves. In 2010, the web­site rolled out a fea­ture that al­lowed users to down­load a zip file of their pro­files con­sist­ing of HTML files of their walls, event his­tor­ies, mes­sages, lists of friends, and im­ages.

In the past five years, a data­base main­tained by the Na­tion­al Coun­terter­ror­ism Cen­ter to track sus­pec­ted ter­ror­ists ad­ded 335,000 names, for a total of 875,000. The list in­cludes thou­sands of Amer­ic­ans. How many of them use Face­book?

What We're Following See More »
A DARK CLOUD OVER TRUMP?
Snowstorm Could Impact Primary Turnout
2 days ago
THE LATEST

A snowstorm is supposed to hit New Hampshire today and “linger into Primary Tuesday.” GOP consultant Ron Kaufman said lower turnout should help candidates who have spent a lot of time in the state tending to retail politicking. Donald Trump “has acknowledged that he needs to step up his ground-game, and a heavy snowfall could depress his figures relative to more organized candidates.”

Source:
IN CASE OF EMERGENCY
A Shake-Up in the Offing in the Clinton Camp?
2 days ago
THE DETAILS

Anticipating a primary loss in New Hampshire on Tuesday, Hillary and Bill Clinton “are considering staffing and strategy changes” to their campaign. Sources tell Politico that the Clintons are likely to layer over top officials with experienced talent, rather than fire their staff en masse.

Source:
THE LAST ROUND OF NEW HAMPSHIRE POLLS
Trump Is Still Ahead, but Who’s in Second?
2 days ago
THE LATEST

We may not be talking about New Hampshire primary polls for another three-and-a-half years, so here goes:

  • American Research Group’s tracking poll has Donald Trump in the lead with 30% support, followed by Marco Rubio and John Kasich tying for second place at 16%. On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders leads Hillary Clinton 53%-41%.
  • The 7 News/UMass Lowell tracking poll has Trump way out front with 34%, followed by Rubio and Ted Cruz with 13% apiece. Among the Democrats, Sanders is in front 56%-40%.
  • A Gravis poll puts Trump ahead with 28%, followed by Kasich with 17% and Rubio with 15%.
IT’S ALL ABOUT SECOND PLACE
CNN Calls the Primary for Sanders and Trump
1 days ago
THE LATEST

Well that didn’t take long. CNN has already declared Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump the winners of the New Hampshire primary, leaving the rest of the candidates to fight for the scraps. Five minutes later, the Associated Press echoed CNN’s call.

Source:
×