After Google, Facebook has released its global transparency report on government requests made for users data in the first half of 2016. The Global Government Requests Report for H1 2016 reveals that the total number of requests for account data increased by 27 percent globally as compared to the last half of 2015. For the first time Facebook has also included information about requests from governments around the world to preserve data. When received with a preservation request, Facebook stores a temporary snapshot of the relevant account information and discloses it only when a formal and valid legal process requires it. Also Read - Facebook gives voice to emojis with Soundmoji: Here's how to sendAlso Read - Netflix could launch its video game streaming service next year, at no extra cost
Globally the account data requests increased from 46,710 to 59,299 while in India the total requests made were 6,324 requests on 8,290 users/accounts as compared to 5,115 requests on 6,268 users/accounts in the same period in 2015. Of all the requests made, Facebook furnished some data in 53.59 percent of requests. Based on requests type, Facebook received 6,282 legal process requests on 8,221 users/accounts and it produced some data on more than half of such requests. Also Read - You can now use WhatsApp web without your phone
Additionally, Facebook also receives emergency disclosure requests which the company defines as matters which involve imminent risk of serious injury or death. In such cases, Facebook requires the law enforcement agencies of the country to describe the emergency and explain how the disclosure of information might prevent harm. In the reporting period, Facebook received a total of 42 emergency requests for 69 accounts and the company complied by furnishing some data in 69.05 percent of such requests.
Facebook has also disclosed country-wise the number of data preservation requests made, the report reveals that the Indian government or law enforcement agencies made 609 preservation requests on 850 requests on users/accounts. Facebook notes in its report that it will take steps to preserve account records in connection with official criminal investigations for 90 days pending our receipt of formal legal process. This essentially means that when a request to preserve information of any user or account is made by officials, Facebook will preserve the snapshot of the required information and produce it when required by law. It will further keep it preserved for 90 days following the receipt of a formal request.
The Facebook Global Government Requests Report further reveals that it restricted access to certain content in India owing to legal requests from law enforcement agencies and the India Computer Emergency Response Team within the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology. There were a total of 2,034 pieces of content which were restricted in the country. Facebook notes that the majority of content restricted was alleged to violate local laws against anti-religious speech and hate speech.
The social networking site further notes that following the decision of the Supreme Court, it has ceased acting upon legal requests for content restriction unless received by way of binding court orders or a notification by an authorized agency which conforms to the safeguards as directed by the Supreme Court.
Interestingly, in the period from January to June this year, the number of requests for content restriction has drastically gone down. In the same period last year, there were a total of 15,155 pieces of content which were restricted as directed by the government. ALSO READ: Google Transparency Report: India made 3,452 requests for user data in H1, 2016
The trend for periodically releasing transparency reports follows exposure of global surveillance programs by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden back in 2013. After the massive leaks of US and UK citizen surveillance programs were put into public information, major technology companies were compelled to issue transparency reports to regain consumer trust and assure them of virtual security. Despite the major debate on user privacy and national security, there is no sign of government requests on user data going down.