KARACHI: The government made 471 requests to Facebook for data related to 706 accounts/users in the latter half of last year, marking a two-fold increase in the number of requests made to the social networking site during the first six months of 2015.
The details were given in a bi-annual transparency report, “Global Government Requests Report”, issued by Facebook recently.
Between January and June of 2015, 192 such requests were made for data related to 275 users/ accounts, meaning that there was a 145 per cent jump in the number of requests made by the government to the social media giant during the second half of the year.
The website said: “Based on legal requests from the Pakistan Telecom Authority, Facebook restricted access to six items that were alleged to violate local laws prohibiting blasphemy.”
Of the 471 requests made between July and December 2015, Facebook cooperated and provided information in 66.45pc of the cases.
Speaking to Dawn, founder and director of Digital Rights Foundation Nighat Daad said: “Not only is there an alarming increase in the number of data requests made by the Pakistan government, but the instances when Facebook obliged the requests are also increasing.”
Ms Daad, however, questioned the legal process adopted by both parties in the transfer of private data. “All this is happening without any judicial oversight,” she said.
She went on to say that Facebook still held the right to accept or deny any request for data, but once the proposed Cyber Crime Bill was passed, the website would be bound by law to provide data on each request made to it.
“The rise in complaints also shows how rigorously the government wants to control the internet,” she pointed out.
The sole responsibility of data privacy didn’t lie with the government but also with the international companies which otherwise preached freedom of expression, she said.
According to Facebook, the recently released report provided information about the number of government requests it received for data, and the number of items restricted for violating local laws.
The Facebook administration mentioned an overall global increase in government requests for user data and content restrictions pursuant to local law.
“Government requests for account data rose by 13pc, from 41,214 requests to 46,763. The number of items restricted for violating local law increased over the first half of 2015, to 55,827 items, up from 20,568,” said the report.
Facebook said it only “responds to valid requests relating to criminal cases”.
The social network added that each request received from a government was checked for legal sufficiency and was rejected unless it required greater specificity on requests which were overly broad or vague.
Published in Dawn, May 2nd, 2016