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Facebook turns down Barbados government’s request for info

by Shawn Cumberbatch

facebookgovernmentrequestreportThe international controversy over state surveillance and spying has reached Barbados.

Popular online social network Facebook says it has received and denied Barbados Government requests for information on three Bajans and their accounts.

In response, Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite told Barbados TODAY he knew nothing about the issue, which raised concern and generated debate among several Barbadians on Facebook today.

The world has been in an uproar ever since United States National Security Agency employee Edward Snowden leaked information on “cyber-intelligence” activities by that American entity, including its use of heavily used networks including Facebook.

Yesterday, in that company’s first ever Global Government Requests Report covering the period January to June this year, it’s General Counsel Colin Stretch released statistics showing Barbados was the only CARICOM country to request user information.

The information published related to both criminal and national security requests from 74 countries seeking information on nearly 38,000 accounts. About half of the requests were made by the US government.

Facebook said there were three “total requests” from Government in the six-month period and that the requests covered “users/accounts”.

In terms of the “percentage of requests where some data (was) produced” to the unspecified Barbadian authorities, however, Facebook said this was zero per cent.

Stretch said it provided no such information because it was not “required by law to disclose at least some data”, and did not specify requests prior to this year or subsequent to June. Brathwaite said he was unaware of the issue when contacted.

“I know nothing about this,” he said. Facebook’s General Counsel reiterated in the report that his organisation had “stringent processes in place to handle all government data requests”.

“We believe this process protects the data of the people who use our service, and requires governments to meet a very high legal bar with each individual request in order to receive any information about any of our users,” he said.

“We scrutinize each request for legal sufficiency under our terms and the strict letter of the law, and require a detailed description of the legal and factual bases for each request.

“We fight many of these requests, pushing back when we find legal deficiencies and narrowing the scope of overly broad or vague requests. When we are required to comply with a particular request, we frequently share only basic user information, such as name.”

Stretch explained that governments made requests to Facebook and many other companies seeking account information in official investigations.

“The vast majority of these requests relate to criminal cases, such as robberies or kidnappings. In many of these cases, these government requests seek basic subscriber information, such as name and length of service. Other requests may also seek IP address logs or actual account content,” he noted.

Facebook plans to “release these reports regularly in the future”.

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