Facebook Calling: Govt Asked for Three Times More Data in 4 Years
The Indian government is making requests for data about more users than ever before.
The Indian government is making requests for data about more users than ever before.(Photo: Reuters)

Facebook Calling: Govt Asked for Three Times More Data in 4 Years

Facebook, on Monday, 18 December, released its six-monthly transparency report, detailing government requests on counterfeit, content restrictions, and user information. According to the report, the Indian government is making requests for more user data than ever before.

All the times the Indian government asked Facebook for data. 
All the times the Indian government asked Facebook for data. 
(Photo: The Quint/Rahul Gupta)

The Centre requested Facebook for data 9,853 times in the first half of 2017 – up from 6,324 times in the first half of 2016. This marks a 57 percent rise from the first half of 2016, and a 35 percent rise from the later half.

Law enforcement agencies and the government also requested for information on 13,752 user accounts. Facebook produced ‘some data’ in 54 percent of the cases in the January-June 2017 period, according to the social networking site.

In case of 262 accounts which Facebook put in the ‘emergency’ category, the company produced ‘some data’ in 36 percent of the cases.

Three-Fold Rise in Data Requests from India

The number of times the Centre or law enforcement agencies have gone to Facebook for data has increased three times in the last four years, as per the data provided by the US-based social media conglomerate.

The Facebook Transperancy Report states that the Indian government put 3,245 data requests for 4,144 users in the first half of 2013. This number has steadily risen in every six-monthly report.

Facebook has, on an average, produced ‘some data’ in 50 percent of the cases.

The data also reveals that the Palo Alto-based tech giant has slowed down on restricting content in India.

Between July-December 2015, as many as 14,971 content pieces were restricted, whereas in the first six months of 2016, only 2,034 restrictions were imposed.

The dip was seen after the Supreme Court amended the proper interpretation of the Information Technology Act. Since then, Facebook has “ceased acting upon legal requests to remove access to content unless received by way of a binding court order and/or a notification by an authorised agency.”

A Global Surge in Govt Requests

Requests for account data increased 21 percent globally, compared to the second half of 2016, from 64,279 to 78,890, Facebook said.

The US government made 32,716 requests for data from the company in the first half of 2017, with 57 percent of those requests coming with demands for confidentiality.

Overall, the number of content restrictions for violating local law increased 304 percent globally, compared to the second half of 2016, from 6,944 to 28,036. “This increase was primarily driven by a request from Mexican law enforcement to remove instances of a video depicting a school shooting in Monterrey in January. We restricted access in Mexico to 20,506 instances of the video in the first half of 2017,” Facebook said.

Facebook Down 21 Times

The social media platform has been the eye of the storm for many hate speeches and derogatory content produced by Indian users. In the first six months of 2017, Facebook restricted 1,228 pieces of content in response to requests from law enforcement agencies and the IT Ministry. "The majority of content restricted was alleged to violate local laws relating to defamation of religion and hate speech," Facebook said in its semi-annual report.

Facebook also got 1,166 preservation requests, which entail taking steps to safeguard accounts relating to criminal cases. Preservation requests for users or pages were 1,629.

Facebook was disrupted 21 times in the first half of 2017 for Indian users, as per the data released. So, if you faced issues while checking your Facebook feed earlier this year, it wasn’t just you.