November 15, 2015 - Comments Off on Facebook’s 2015 Global Government Requests Report Highlights Growing No. of Demands by Pak Govt
In the wake of Snowden, it has become important for large tech corporations to be transparent about their interactions with governments ie requests to either access or remove data from particular social media or websites. Facebook and Google have in recent years released transparency reports that announce the number of data removal/access requests by governments.
On Wednesday 11th 2015 Facebook released their newest Global Government Requests Report, “as part of a broader effort to reform government surveillance in countries around the world by providing more transparency" on a country by country basis. The report can be found here.
Relating to Pakistan in particular, it was revealed that for the period January 2015 – June 2015 there were 192 government requests, with 275 users/accounts requested, with 58.33% of these requests resulting with some “data...produced.” This is an increase from the July 2014 – December 2014 reporting period, where 100 requests were made, 152 users/accounts data requested, and 42% of requests resulting in some data. Going by the increase in current and past government request data, it is more than likely that the number of requests by governments will increase over time.
Facebook and other tech corporations may be taking steps to prove their commitment to respect and protect their users, but it is not enough to take them at their word. While one can approve of this action being taken by Facebook and other corporations, we must be cautious and restrained in our praise. Facebook and other large tech corporations are usually reliant on these same governments to allow them to operate in non-US territories. The 2013 Snowden leaks also revealed that Facebook was an active participant in the NSA's PRISM surveillance programme, wherein information was shared by tech companies with US intelligence agencies, ostensibly to detect foreign threats to the United States of America. And in 2010, let us not forget, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said that privacy was no longer a “social norm”.
The 2015 Corporate Accountability Index released by Ranking Digital Rights – designed to evaluate “world’s most powerful Internet and telecommunications companies on their public commitments and disclosed policies affecting users’ freedom of expression and privacy “ - ranks the commitment of Facebook and others in regards to the quality of those steps being taken. In regards to Facebook, it found that its transparency efforts were not factoring in Instagram and Whatsapp data – two platforms that it purchased in 2012 and 2014, respectively, with a combined global user-base of 13 million users. Ranking Digital Rights gave Facebook an overall score of 41%, which breaks down into 62% for commitment, 35% for freedom of expression, and 36% for privacy. Its score places Facebook 6th out of the 16 corporations evaluated. The 2015 Corporate Accountability Index can be found here.
As Ranking Digital Rights and other watchdog organisations observe, tech corporations “exert growing influence over the political and civil lives of people all over the world”, and a result these “companies share a responsibility to respect human rights.” Facebook and its fellow tech companies must do more to shoulder that responsibility, and must do more to prove that the safety, welfare and rights of their users matter to them, or else they could face a growing backlash from the users, their customer base.