Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Facebook and Your Privacy - Government Requests for Your Information

Facebook, the choice of communication for the sheeple of the world, has recently released the latest version of its Facebook Transparency Report.  Here's what the company has to say about its business model and your privacy:

"We're committed to making Facebook a place that's open and authentic, while safeguarding people's private data and keeping our platform safe for everyone. We publish regular reports to give our community visibility into how we enforce policies, respond to data requests and protect intellectual property, while monitoring dynamics that limit access to Facebook products." (my bold)

While the reports may be regular, I question the company's interest in safeguarding your "private data" but, then again, that could be my paranoia coming into play.

Let's look at what I feel is the most important aspect of Facebook's determination to protect its users' private data; government requests for Facebook users' data.  Here is a graphic showing the growing number of government requests for Facebook by half year:

Government requests for Facebook users' data rose to a new high of 128,617 in the first half of 2019. Of these requests, Facebook produced some data in 73.6 percent of cases, just below the 74.8 percent record level reached in the second half of 2017.

The five nations with the most total requests (legal process requests plus emergency requests) for users' data are as follows (with the percent of data requests at least partially fulfilled in brackets:

1.) United States - 50,741 total requests (88 percent)

2.) India - 22,684 total requests (54 percent)

3.) United Kingdom - 7,721 total requests (90 percent)

4.) Germany - 7,302 total requests (58 percent)

5.) France - 5,466 total requests (70 percent)

Other nations of interest are as follows:

Canada - 1,847 total requests (83 percent)

Taiwan - 1,163 total requests (80 percent)

Australia - 922 total requests (76 percent)

Israel - 709 total requests (76 percent)

Hong Kong - 143 total requests (66 percent)

Russia - 8 total requests (0 percent)

China - 0 total requests 

I found it particularly interesting that two nations that are regularly accused by Washington of having poor human rights records have minimal requests for users' data from Facebook.

Since the United States government is the most frequent government to request personal data from Facebook users, let's look a little more deeply at the "data behind the data".  Here is a graphic showing the growth in government requests for users' data by the United States government:

At 50,741 requests for data in the first half of 2019, requests for users' data by the United States government hit a new record, well above the previous record of 42,466 in the first half of 2018.

Let's look at the types of legal process request types by the United States government keeping in mind the following:

"Facebook responds to government requests for data in accordance with applicable law and our terms of service. Each and every request we receive is carefully reviewed for legal sufficiency and we may reject or require greater specificity on requests that appear overly broad or vague."

Given that 78 percent of emergency requests and 88 percent of legal process requests resulted in Facebook release at least some of its users' data, it is pretty clear that they refuse to release data in a minority of cases.

Here is a chart showing the United States legal process request types:

Here is a table showing a breakdown of the requests by legal process request type and the percentage of requests where Facebook released at least some data:

Here is a chart showing the United States national security request types:

Here is a table showing a breakdown of the requests under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act going back to the beginning of 2016:

Here is a table showing a breakdown of the requests under National Security Letters going back to the beginning of 2016:

Facebook users, particularly those in the United States, should be concerned about how the private data that they are sharing to the online world can be shared with governments.  Even if users have implemented the strictest privacy settings on their Facebook accounts, they have absolutely no guarantee that "Big Brother" doesn't know things about them that they may prefer to keep out of the hands of government.  

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