US requested data on at least 20,000 Facebook users

Facebook released statistics for the first time on Tuesday on how often it complies with government requests for access to its users' information.

The social media giant said that, in the first half of this year, it received between 11,000 and 12,000 requests from the U.S. government covering between 20,000 and 21,000 users. The company said it provided information in response to 79 percent of those requests.

The statistics include requests from both local law enforcement officials and national security agencies.

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"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," wrote Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch. 

"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."

Facebook is following in the footsteps of Google and Twitter, which already release regular reports on the number of government requests for user data. 

The United States requested Facebook data far more frequently than any other government. India requested data on 4,144 users, and the United Kingdom requested data on 2,337 users, Facebook said. Russia issued only one request, which Facebook said it rejected.