India Behind US in Govt Requests to Meta: What Does It Mean for User Privacy?

6 days ago 20

The Indian government's demand for user data has gone up, as per Meta's transparency report. What else does it say?

Published: 24 Nov 2022, 6:35 PM IST

 What Does It Mean for User Privacy?

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The Indian government requested user data from Meta 55,497 times over the first six months of 2022.

Brass tacks: Over 91,159 users or accounts were subject to these requests, according to the latest biannual transparency report of the social media giant.

  • Yes, but: Meta only complied with 66.59 percent of these requests.

  • The number of requests < number of users which suggests that some requests sought information on multiple users.

  • Government requests are up from the second half of 2021 when the number stood at 50,382.

What counts as user data? Basic subscriber information (name, length of service, payment information, email addresses), message headers, and IP addresses. It also includes messages, photos, videos, timeline posts, and location information associated with the account.

Close ranks: US tops the list of governments which made the most requests for user data, with India coming second. The rest of the list is as follows:

  • Germany

  • Brazil

  • France

  • United Kingdom

  • Turkey

  • Poland

  • Mexico

  • Argentina

The number of government requests for data from various countries. 

(Photo Courtesy: Meta Transparency Report)

Squatters: The US and India have consistently been the top two countries requesting user information from Meta since 2018.

But why? "The numbers are in many ways related to the population of these countries, what percentage of their population is already on the internet, and how popular these platforms are," Udbhav Tiwari, the head of Global Product Policy at Mozilla, told The Quint.

More requests = more privacy harm? Not really. The rankings and total quantum of user data requests are just as indicative of market size in these countries as they are of governments' interest to go after information, Tiwari said.

"Imagine in America, I sue you in court and for a civil matter right, so it's not a criminal investigation. I can actually make a request for data to Facebook via the court and if the court says 'yes this data needs to be shared,' then Facebook has to share that data. That also counts as government access to data."

Udbhav Tiwari, Mozilla

Low-key takedowns: Meta restricts access to posts that violate local laws but don't contravene its Community Guidelines. In this report:

  • Election Commission flagged 23 pieces of content for Violating laws such as the Indian Penal Code and Representation of the People Act, spreading candidate misinformation, and promoting sectarian violence.

  • Ministry of Information and Technology requested action against 597 pieces of content, citing Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000.

  • Ministry of Information & Broadcasting sought 6 pieces of content to be withheld from public view using its powers granted under Rule 16 of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines & Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.

  • Court orders led to another 71 items facing action.

Amount of Indian government requests received by Meta since 2013. 

(Photo Courtesy: Meta Transparency Report)

What's down, as per Meta's 'Integrity and Transparency Report' for Facebook:

Actions against hate speech-related content:

  • 13.5 million pieces in Q2 2022

  • 10.6 million pieces in Q3 2022

Proactive detection rate for hate speech:

  • 95.6 percent in Q2 2022

  • 90.2 percent in Q3 2022

Actions against violence-inciting content:

  • 19.3 million pieces in Q2 2022

  • 14.4 million pieces in Q3 2022

Proactive detection rate for actioning this content:

  • 98.2 percent in Q2 2022

  • 94.3 percent in Q3 2022

Proactive detection rate for bullying and harassment-related content:

  • 76.7 percent in Q2 2022

  • 67.8 percent in Q3 2022

How safe is Meta?  Prevalence shows the likelihood that someone sees a piece of violating content that was missed. In this case, the lower the prevalence, the better. 

(Photo Courtesy: Meta Transparency Report)

What's gone up, as per Meta's 'Integrity and Transparency Report' for Facebook:

Actions against content related to terrorism:

  • 13.5 million pieces in Q2 2022

  • 16.7 million pieces in Q3 2022

Actions against drug-related content:

  • 3.9 million pieces in Q2 2022

  • 4.1 million pieces in Q3 2022

Actions against spam:

  • 734 million pieces in Q2 2022

  • 1.4 billion pieces in Q3 2022

Number of deliberate internet disruptions caused by governments around the world that impact the availability of Meta's products.

(Photo Courtesy: Meta Transparency Report)

Fighting internet shutdowns: The report also revealed that Facebook services were disrupted 38 times in 12 countries as opposed to 62 disruptions in 17 countries in the first half of 2021.

Meta took these numbers as being indicative of a trend towards more State-imposed internet shutdowns, which it came out against.

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