Tuesday, January 10, 2017 by JD Heyes
Your constitutional right to privacy has suffered greatly in the Information Age, either through blatantly illegal government surveillance or by voluntarily giving it up through the use of social media.
But what about when you don’t voluntarily give up information—does the government still have the right to it? If you’re Facebook, then the answer is yes.
As reported by the AntiMedia, according to the social media giant’s Global Government Requests Report, requests by government for data and information rose 27 percent last year, to 59,229. And more than half of those requests were met without it being disclosed to the user.
“The majority of data requests we received from law enforcement in the United States, or approximately 56%, contained a non-disclosure order that prohibited us from notifying the user,” the report said.
But it gets even worse.
According to the report, law enforcement agencies from around the world often send restriction requests—demands that Facebook actually take down content from some of its forums. So, besides theft of data, governments get their censorship requests met as well.
The good news—what there is of it—is that requests for censorship dropped quite a bit over the past year, from 55,827 in the latter half of 2015 to just 9,663 in 2016, an 87-percent decline. And most of the restrictions pertained to “French content restrictions of a single image from the November 13, 2015 terrorist attacks,” the report said.
For the first time, Facebook also used its annual report to disclose what the company does when it actually receives requests from law enforcement agencies to provide “snapshots” of a user’s account that could be relevant to police for undisclosed reasons.
Those “preservation requests,” as they are formally known, seek to “preserve data pending receipt of formal legal process”—in other words, cops don’t want evidence deleted. But this act alone is a violation of due process, since it essentially provides law enforcement with evidence before a court has signed off and issued a search warrant, which is required by the Fourth Amendment.
Facebook does indeed honor snapshot requests, according to the report, which are temporarily preserved. The company did say it does not “disclose any of the preserved records unless and until we receive formal and valid legal process.”
During the first half of 2016, Facebook received 38,675 preservations requests, the report noted, involving 67,129 accounts—a huge number.
Facebook appears to be providing some transparency here, but it could very well be just smoke and mirrors. The social media site and others, after all, have cooperated with the Obama administration to provide data to intelligence agencies without prior court approval.