Facebook Says Rise in U.S. Government Requests for User Data

Facebook Inc. said it received 11,000 to 12,000 requests for data from U.S. government entities during the first half of this year, the “vast majority” tied to investigations of crimes such as robberies or kidnappings.

The number, which Facebook reported on its website today, represents a small fraction of the social network’s more than 1 billion users. Facebook said it produced some data in response to 79 percent of the queries received from U.S. officials.

Technology companies including Facebook, Microsoft Corp. and Google Inc. have pressed the U.S. government for more leeway to report aggregate numbers of data requests, following reports earlier this year that the U.S. National Security Agency is collecting millions of residents’ telephone records and the computer communications of foreigners from Web businesses under court order. Governments must “meet a very high legal bar” to receive any information about users, Facebook said today.

“We fight many of these requests, pushing back when we find legal deficiencies and narrowing the scope of overly broad or vague requests” Colin Stretch, Facebook’s general counsel, said on the company’s website. “When we are required to comply with a particular request, we frequently share only basic user information, such as a name.”

U.S. officials made 9,000 to 10,000 requests for data in the last six months of 2012, the Menlo Park, California-based company said in June. The U.S. had the most requests of any country during the recent reporting period.

Outside the U.S., Facebook received about 15,000 requests for data during the first half of 2013, according to the report. Overall, the queries covered almost 40,000 users worldwide and came from more than 70 countries.

Facebook’s shares fell 4.1 percent to $39.64 at the close in New York, leaving them up 49 percent so far this year.

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