In the first six months of 2013, the social network giant received 546 requests for access to information from 601 Australian-held accounts.
It granted 349 (64 per cent) of those requests – handing over information ranging from how long accounts had been in use, through to account content and internet protocol (IP) address logs.
Globally, 74 governments made 26,000 requests for access to information from 38,000 Facebook accounts in the first half of 2013, according to Facebook’s first Global Government Requests Report.
The US demanded access to 20,000 accounts, with 79 per cent of those requests granted. India demanded access to 4144 accounts, followed by the UK (2337) Italy (2306), Germany (2068) and France (1598).
“The vast majority of these requests relate to criminal cases, such as robberies or kidnappings,” Facebook’s general counsel Colin Stretch said in a blog post accompanying its report.
Facebook, which has nine million daily Australian users, gave no further detail about the precise source of the requests – for example, what percentage were made by law enforcement, intelligence or other agencies.
Comment has been sought from the Australian Federal Police. Australian Privacy Foundation chairman Roger Clarke acknowledged that data requests can help solve serious crimes or find missing people. But he said they must face intense scrutiny before being granted.
“Every organisation, social media and otherwise, must have a first-round response of ‘show me your search warrant’,” he told AAP.
“Sure, some agencies have demanded powers. So put the onus on them to communicate what that power is. Many ‘requests’ will then fizzle. Some won’t. And at least some, perhaps many, of the ones that survive would be supported by public interest organisations.”
Facebook said all data requests it receives must meet a “very high legal bar” and that it “fights” some requests.
Tech firms have faced increased pressure to disclose government data requests since June, when former US government contractor Edward Snowden leaked details of PRISM – a large program that saw nine companies turn over user data to the US National Security Agency.
Twitter recently revealed that the Australian government demanded access to data from 58 Twitter accounts in the first half of 2013 – up from less than 10 users in the second half of 2012.
Google’s latest figures show that in the second half of 2012 it received 584 requests for access to information about 711 Australian users or accounts. It granted access to data in 65 per cent of those cases.
Microsoft and Yahoo are among other companies that have recently published data disclosure logs.