Australian law enforcement asks for more Facebook user data

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Australian law enforcement asks for more Facebook user data

Requests continue to grow.

Australian law enforcement and government agencies are asking for increasingly more data on Facebook users, the latest figures from the social media giant show.

In the six months from July to December last year, Australian government agencies requested 36 percent more data on Facebook user accounts than in the previous six month period.

Facebook's latest twice-yearly government requests report reveals it received 829 requests for user data on 933 accounts from Australia. It handed over the data on 69 percent of requests.

"We restricted access to three items in compliance with a request from a local state consumer affairs regulator for violating local laws that ban 'false and misleading information'," Facebook stated in its report.

"We also restricted one page in compliance with Australia’s federal anti-discrimination laws."

The company said it only responds to valid requests for data relating to criminal cases.

"Each and every request we receive is checked for legal sufficiency and we reject or require greater specificity on requests that are overly broad or vague," it wrote.

Throughout the rest of the world, Facebook restricted access to more content over the last six months than previously, but the amount of requests made by governments for account data remained stable.

Facebook is one of a number of technology companies who over the past 12-18 months have increased efforts to be more transparent on the volume and nature of requests for customer data they receive from governments and law enforcement.

Late last year, Google reported a 15 percent global increase in requests for user data in the first half of 2014 - and a 150 percent rise over the last five years. Australian-specific requests were down slightly on the previous six months for the first time since 2009.

Apple said it received 2442 law enforcement device requests from Australia in the six months to June 2014 - a 45 percent increase on the previous six months.

And back home, Telstra revealed it had taken 85,000 requests for customer information for its 2014 fiscal year in its first full-year transparency report released in September. 

The Australian Government is currently attempting to push through legislation that would force local carriers and internet service providers to retain non-content data on customers for two years for law enforcement purposes.

The Government yesterday agreed to create an exclusion for journalists under the data retention regime in order to protect their sources.

It is expected to move an amendment to require law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant in order to access a journalists' metadata for the purpose of identifying a source this week.

The data retention bill is expected to be debated today in the House of Representatives.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott yesterday told Opposition Leader Bill Shorten that the Labor Party would need to pass the bill by next week now that the Government had given into Labor's demands to exempt journalists from the scheme.

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