Should EU Governments Be More Transparent, Flexible When Requesting Facebook User Data?

By David Cohen 

EuropeanUnionFlags650Facebook received about 8,500 requests for user data from governments of countries in the European Union during the first six months of 2013, involving some 10,000 accounts, Richard Allan, the social network’s director for public policy in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, said at a hearing organized by the European Parliament’s civil liberties committee, offering more details on the data released by the company in August.

The New York TimesBits blog reported that Allan urged EU governments to be more transparent and flexible when it comes to requests for user data related to national security, saying:

What’s interesting, and what’s missing from the puzzle at the moment, (is) how little information governments publish on their own requests.

(For) any citizen to have a complete picture and know who’s telling the truth, (the authorities making the requests also need) to say how many requests they’ve made in our name.

Facebook does not charge governments for requesting access to user accounts, but Allan said at the hearing that the idea is being explored, according to Bits, in order to see “whether or not it’s worth having the friction of money in there as some way of rationing the data requests that governments make.”

Allan reiterated that only “a tiny fraction of 1 percent of Facebook user accounts were subject to any kind of government request in the past year,” adding that the EU countries responsible for the most requests during the first six months of the year were:

  1. U.K., 1,975
  2. Germany, 1,886
  3. Italy, 1,705
  4. France, 1,547

Readers: Was Allan right about the need for more transparency and flexibility by governments in these cases?

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.