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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Facebook Releases Report on Government Requests

Facebook on Tuesday for the first time released a report showing the number of requests about its users that it has received from government agencies around the globe.

The report covers the first six months of 2013, ending on June 30, and notes that government groups in 74 countries demanded information about more than 37,954 accounts on Facebook.

Almost half of all the requests came from the United States, the report said.

Facebook noted that a vast majority of the requests from government agencies relate to criminal cases, including robberies and kidnappings, but that in some instances the requests pertain to national security issues. The report does not break down the numbers of requests on particular subjects.

The requests about Facebook users often seek basic information, the company said, including a person’s name and when that person joined Facebook. But in some cases governments try to find a person’s IP address â€" which is related to location â€" or to seek actual content posted on Facebook.

“As we have made clear in recent weeks, we have stringent processes in place to handle all government data requests,” wrote Colin Stretch, Facebook’s general counsel, on the company’s Web site. “We scrutinize 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.”

Mr. Stretch said Facebook fights many such requests, “pushing back when we find legal deficiencies” and trying to narrow what it considers broad or vague requests.

Facebook and other companies were caught off guard in June when a report from The Guardian said major technology companies were working with the National Security Agency to help the government secretly collect data on customers. Since then, major tech companies have tried to show that they are not aiding the N.S.A.

Microsoft and Google have also issued reports about the government requests for information they have received. Facebook said it planned to continue releasing these reports in the future.