Facebook: Israel requested information on 132 user accounts

Israel among 71 governments that have requested information from the social media giant about its users.

August 28, 2013 19:48
2 minute read.
Using Facebook on the Internet

Using Facebook on the Internet 370 (R). (photo credit: reuters)


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Facebook on Wednesday revealed that Israel was among the 71 governments that requested information from the social media giant about its users.

In the first six months of 2013, Israel made 113 requests for data on 132 accounts, and Facebook provided at least some data in 50 percent of the cases, according to the company’s first Global Government Request Report. Israel ranked 18th on the list, based on number of requests.

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The United States topped the list by significant amounts, requesting information on a total of 20,000-21,000 Facebook users through 11,000- 12,000 requests. Of those requests, Facebook submitted some data 79% of the time. In comparison, the No. 2 requester on the list, India, submitted 3,245 requests, under a third as many as the US.

According to the report, most of the requests related to criminal cases, such as robberies or kidnappings, in which government bodies sought information ranging from name, to IP address logs, to content posted on Facebook.

“The bodies empowered to request data vary from country to country, but I believe in Israel it is the police,” a Facebook spokeswoman told The Jerusalem Post. Police could not confirm whether or under what circumstances they had turned to Facebook for information.

Privacy issues have been in the public spotlight since Edward Snowden, a US government contractor, revealed the existence of government snooping programs that collect data on telephone calls, emails, and other Internet communications.

Companies that cooperated with the government in providing data have scrambled to reassure their users.

“We have stringent processes in place to handle all government data requests. We believe this process protects the data of the people who use our service, and requires governments to meet a very high legal bar with each individual request in order to receive any information about any of our users,” Facebook general counsel Colin Stretch wrote in a report.

The fact that many people leave their Facebook privacy settings open can help criminal investigators find data without turning to the company; lists of “dumb criminals who got caught after posting on Facebook” abound on the Internet.

But the company turning over private information is a different matter, one which it says it does under legal obligation.

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

Though Facebook laid out US laws that compel it to turn over user information, such as subpoenas in criminal investigations, it does not detail which laws in Israel apply.

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