President Barack Obama speaks as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg looks on during a town hall meeting at Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., April 20, 2011.

Facebook: U.S. Is Number One in User Information Requests

Curiously, international pariahs submitted zero requests for user information in the first half of 2013.

President Barack Obama speaks as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg looks on during a town hall meeting at Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., April 20, 2011.
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The global social network Facebook published data Tuesday revealing the number of requests for user information it received in the first six months of 2013 from the United States and government officials in 70 other countries.

U.S. officials made 11,000-12,000 requests for information affecting 20,000-21,000 accounts, according to the report. In 79 percent of cases, Facebook handed over some information to U.S. government agents.

Facebook didn't provide information on how many of the requests were FBI national security letters, hushed demands for information that cannot be disclosed by their recipients, or how many requests were from local law enforcement using subpoenas or search warrants. The secretive national security requests are included in the approximated tally.

"We will publish updated information for the United States as soon as we obtain legal authorization to do so," the company says below its international data table. "We have reported the numbers for all criminal and national security requests to the maximum extent permitted by law."

[REPORT: NSA Spying Included Major Internet Giants]

This is Facebook's first report on global government requests.

Forbes notes the company's acquiescence to U.S. government demands for information is slightly lower than Google's rate in last six months of 2012. Google turned over information in response to 88 percent of 8,438 requests, affecting 14,791 accounts. That tally does not include the number of national security letters received, which Google offers in separate annual ranges.

Unlike Facebook, Google provides the number of requests made using a subpoena or search warrant.

After the U.S., authorities in India were the second most prolific information seekers, issuing 3,245 requests affecting 4,144 accounts. Authorities in Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom all requested information affecting more than 2,000 users.

Curiously, Facebook says it received no requests for user information from authoritarian pariahs such as Belarus, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria, Turkmenistan and Zimbabwe. Some of those countries have restricted access to Facebook, but the company says it also did not receive requests from China, Saudi Arabia or Vietnam, countries with Internet-savvy citizens and severe limitations on political rights.

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"As we state clearly in the report, we have included all requests we have received," Facebook spokesperson Sarah Feinberg told U.S. News, "so if a country is not listed, I think it is fair for you to assert we haven't received requests from those countries."

It's unclear why countries notorious for disrespecting the privacy of their citizens did not seek user information from Facebook.

It's also unclear how much user information can be secretly acquired by the U.S. National Security Agency without formal requests.

A top secret NSA slideshow leaked in June to the Washington Post and the Guardian described a program called PRISM, which according to the documents allows NSA analysts "[c]ollection directly from the servers" of nine collaborating companies, including Facebook and Google. The companies vigorously denied any knowledge of the program in June and insisted they do not allow the government direct access to their servers.

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