Facebook has released its Global Government Requests Report for H1 2016, and it shows that there has been a significant increase in the number of government requests for account data.
Compared to the first half of 2015, Facebook received 27 percent more requests globally. Most of these 59,229 requests came from the US government, and more than half of them (56 percent) included a gagging order preventing Facebook from notifying the affected users.
Request for "content restriction" due to local law violations dropped dramatically -- down a massive 83 percent from 55,827 to 9,663. All is not as it seems here, however. Rather than the first half of 2016 representing a huge drop, it is more accurate to say that the first half of 2015 was a somewhat unrepresentative spike. Facebook explains that restrictions relating to a single image following the terrorist attacks in France inflated last year's numbers.
Revealing details of the government data requests in the first half of 2016, Facebook says:
For the first time, our report includes information about the requests we receive from governments around the world to preserve data pending receipt of formal legal process. As we describe in our law enforcement guidelines, when we receive a preservation request, we will preserve a temporary snapshot of the relevant account information. We do not disclose any of the preserved records unless and until we receive formal and valid legal process. During this reporting period, we received 38,675 preservation requests for 67,129 accounts.
Facebook takes the publishing of this report to stress that "we do not provide governments with 'back doors' or direct access to people’s information"; the company also says that "we apply a rigorous approach to every government request we receive to protect the information of the people who use our services".
Legal changes brought in by the USA Freedom Act mean that the social networking giant is now able to reveal more about National Security Letters.