Recently, the Indian government found itself in thick soup after allegations of snooping on journalists, activists, etc, during the election time, surfaced. Now, all eyes are again back on the data privacy issue in the country after Facebook recently published a report on different governments’ scrutiny requests to the social media company.
According to Facebook’s Transparency Report, in the first half of 2019, the Indian government had asked for 22,684 requests for user data of 33,324 users/accounts from the social media company. Moreover, India was only lagging behind the US which asked the social media company for 50,714 user data requests of 82,461 users/accounts.
Facebook, however, said that out of these 22,684 data requests, the social media company only produced data to 54% cases. The company also claimed that it responds to government requests for data in accordance with applicable law and its terms of service. “We may reject or require greater specificity on requests that appear overly broad or vague,” the company added.
It is to be noted here that the new list of requests from the Indian government increased by 37% compared to what it sought from Facebook during the same time frame, last year.
The report also stated that, from January 2018 to June 2018, the social media company had received 16,580 requests from India. Additionally, Facebook had received 20,805 requests from India from July to December last year.
Overall, during the first half of 2019, the social media company had received 1,28,617 such requests from governments from around the world. In the list of the number of requests to Facebook, the US and India were followed by three European countries, namely, UK, Germany and France.
Besides the requests for user data, the social media company also revealed that it faced around 70 internet disruptions, affecting its products in about 17 countries. Not much to the surprise, India was leading this chart with 40 disruptions. According to the report, the total duration of the disruption in India was eight weeks, two days and twenty-two hours.
The social media giant said that the permanent restriction to content in India during the time frame came in response to legal requests from law enforcement agencies, court orders, and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.
How Did Facebook Respond?
In response to the Indian government claims, Facebook restricted access to 1,233 items of content, including 1,211 posts, two profiles, 19 pages and groups and one comment on its social media platform.
The social media company also clarified that the content it restricted was alleged to have violated laws and primarily fall in the categories of hate speech, anti-religious content, defamation, extremism, anti-government, and anti-state content. “We also restricted access to 217 items in response to private reports related to defamation,” it added.
Facebook also revealed that based on the reports of the Election Commission of India, it imposed temporary access restriction to 448 items as they were allegedly subject to election blackout periods.