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Why Your Government's Interest in 38,000 Facebook Users Should Concern You

by Jane Susskind, published


The numbers are in, and for the first half of 2013, government agents from 74 different countries asked for the user information of 38,000 Facebook users, the company reports.

After successfully pushing for permission for a more open dialogue on government requests for user information, this is the second time Facebook has posted these numbers, because at Facebook, "transparency and trust are core values."

"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," Colin Stretch, Facebook General Counsel says in the Global Government Requests Report.

In the United States alone, the government made between 11,000-12,000 requests involving 20,000-21,000 users/accounts. Facebook reportedly complied with, to some degree, 79% of those requests.

In isolation, these numbers hardly make a dent in the over 1 billion users on Facebook. But when compared to the numbers reported last year (July-December 2012), in which Facebook received between 9,000 and 10,000 user-data requests of 18,000 and 19,000 users/accounts, they represent a significant increase.

An increase of around 20% in just 6 months, to be precise.

This is representative of an overall trend towards increased requests from government agencies, made evident by recurring reports from all the major tech and social media companies.

So it's not so much about the numbers, rather what the numbers represent. With trust in the government slipping and public demand for transparency growing, government actions are being analyzed under a microscope, with increased scrutiny on the U.S. government's actions and how they affect our personal freedom.

Do you think government requests for user data will increase or decrease in the second half of 2013?

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