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Facebook discloses NZ govt data requests…

28 Aug 2013

The New Zealand government officially made 106 requests for information on 119 Facebook users so far this year, according to new data released by the company.

Complying with 58% of the requests, the social networking giant revealed all in the first of its Global Government Request reports, intent on becoming more transparent with the public.

"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," says Colin Stretch, Facebook's General Counsel.

"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."

Across the world, governments in 74 countries requested data on around 38,000 Facebook users since the turn of the year, with half of the requests coming from the US alone.

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 company claims it has stringent processes in place to handle all government data requests, scrutinising each for legal sufficiency under our terms and the strict letter of the law.

"We fight many of these requests," Stretch insists. "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."

Citing transparency and trust as core values at Facebook, Stretch explains that governments make requests to the website 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.

"While we view this compilation as an important first report - it will not be our last," Stretch says.

"In coming reports, we hope to be able to provide even more information about the requests we receive from law enforcement authorities."

Do you think transparency between companies and the public should be further encouraged? Does it make a difference? Tell us your thoughts below

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