Facebook Is Now The Government’s Most Valuable Asset On The Internet

Facebook’s new report on government data requests suggests it’s not just one of the internet’s biggest sites — it’s the government’s most-used online source of subpoenaed information.

Beck Diefenbach / Reuters

Facebook has released a report outlining global government data requests, which are demands sent by the world’s governments for Facebook user information. The reasons behind these types of requests vary wildly, and aren’t disclosed by Facebook. They include criminal investigations and security-related requests, the nature of which depends on the originator: A “criminal” request from one country might constitute a human rights violation and go unanswered, as many were.

The U.S. is by far the most frequent requestor of user data, and has a very high success rate of about 79%, exceeded only by Taiwan and a handful of countries with a single-request, 100% rate. U.S. requests exceed 11,000 and affect over 20,000 accounts; a little over 9,000 requests resulted in information being produced in the first six months of 2013. At this rate, over 18,000 U.S. government data requests will be fulfilled before the end of the year.

A little context here helps: In the last six months of last year, Google reported about 8,500 requests from the U.S. government, 88% of which were fulfilled. The higher fulfillment rate is less interesting than the fact that the total request number is lower than Facebook’s — in other words, Facebook is becoming the first place investigators and government officials go to look into their targets’ online activities.

Just one more thing to keep in the back of your mind as you’re scrolling through your newsfeed. Here’s the breakdown — full data here, chart by BuzzFeed.

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