TECH

Facebook Reveals 1,900 Requests To Spy On Users For Criminal Cases

11/04/2014 18:46 BST | Updated 11/04/2014 18:59 BST
PA

Law enforcement agencies in the UK made more than 1,900 requests for data on Facebook users in last six months of 2013, according to results published by the social network today.

Between July and December 2013, there were 1,906 requests submitted to Facebook for user data related to criminal cases.

These requests affected 2,277 different accounts, and Facebook announced that more than 70% of these requests saw some data produced.

"We respond to valid requests relating to criminal cases. Each and every request we receive is checked for legal sufficiency and we reject or require greater specificity on requests that are overly broad or vague," said the report.

Globally there were more than 28,000 requests for data, but the number of requests by government agencies in the UK actually fell in the second half of the year.

Colin Stretch, Facebook's general counsel, said: "Facebook's mission is to give people the power to share, and to make the world more open and connected. Sometimes, the laws of a country interfere with that mission, by limiting what can be shared there.

"When we receive a government request seeking to enforce those laws, we review it with care, and, even where we conclude that it is legally sufficient, we only restrict access to content in the requesting country.

"We do not remove content from our service entirely unless we determine that it violates our community standards. We take a similar approach to government requests for account information. When we receive a request for information, we carefully assess whether we are legally required to comply."

Facebook was one of a host of companies, including Apple and Google, that last year created the Reform Government Surveillance scheme, which set out to increase transparency and accountability when it comes to online snooping by governments.

The movement towards transparency comes in the wake of Edward Snowden leaking documents about the US government's online surveillance around the world.

Snowden is currently living in Russia, and last month appeared on-stage at the TED conference in Vancouver via video-link to discuss internet privacy.

He was joined on-stage by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the world wide web, who called Snowden a "hero" and called for the internet to create a "bill of rights" to help protect users.