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Facebook sees sharp spike in 'emergency' requests for user info from Indian govt

BusinessToday.In     November 15, 2019

Numbers released by Facebook showed a sharp increase in 'emergency requests' from Indian government in the first six months of 2019. The social media platform reported that emergency requests from India almost doubled to 1,615 in January-June period of 2019, as opposed to only 861 requests in July-December period of 2018. In all, there were 1,478 emergency requests last year, more than a three-fold jump from 460 in 2017.

Government requests for user data to Facebook are classified into legal process requests and emergency disclosure requests. Legal process requests are the ones that are accompanied by legal process, like a search warrant. On the other hand, emergency disclosure requests are filed at the time of emergencies without prior legal process. Legal process requests are responded to on the basis of Facebook's terms of service and applicable law, whereas emergency requests are addressed if they involve imminent risk of grave physical injury or death.

Legal requests to Facebook from India during the January-June period of 2019 stood at 21,069, slightly up from 19,944 requests registered during the second half of 2018.

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Meanwhile, overall requests for information on Facebook user accounts by the Indian government reached an all-time high during the first six months of 2019, data released by Facebook showed. Notably, Facebook received the second-highest number of requests for user data from India. The United States of America accounted for the highest number of requests in the world.

"In the first half of 2019, government requests for user data increased by 16% from 110,634 to 128,617. Of the total volume, the US continues to submit the largest number of requests, followed by India, the UK, Germany and France," Chris Sonderby, VP & Deputy General Counsel, Facebook wrote in a blog post.

The government initiated 22,684 requests in total between the months of January and June this year. The number of requests grew 45 per cent in comparison to the year-ago period. In these requests, the government requested information on 33,324 user accounts. Out of the total number of requests, 54 per cent were responded with some information, Facebook data showed.

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Facebook has been publishing data requests from governments since 2013. Presently these numbers include requests raised for Facebook as well as other Facebook apps including Whatsapp, Instagram, Messenger and Oculus.

Notably, Facebook reported a 50 per cent decline in content restrictions during the first half of 2019. India raised 1,250 content restriction requests during the period under request, as opposed to 17,713 requests raised during July-December period last year.

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