A Closer Look into Facebook’s Data Requests from US Government Agencies 2013-2022

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Written by: Alex Popa


A Closer Look into Facebook’s Data Requests from US Government Agencies 2013-2022

Are you curious about Facebook’s compliance with government data requests? Well, so was I, which meant I had to do some digging. As it turns out, the information is public, so I didn’t have to look very far.

You may or may not be surprised by Facebook’s rate of compliance with government data requests, depending on what you already know. But either way, take a look at the chart below for extra juicy details!

Remember, this chart only shows data requests from US government agencies alone, not worldwide.

PeriodTotal RequestsUsers/Accounts RequestsLegal Process RequestsEmergency Disclosure RequestsCompliance Rate
2013 First Half11,000 Total Requests20,000 Users/Accounts Requests79%
2013 Second Half12,598 Total Requests18,715 Users/Accounts Requested81%
2014 First Half15,433 Total Requests23,667 Users/Accounts Requested80%
2014 Second Half14,274 Total Requests21,731 Users/Accounts Requested79%
2015 First Half17,577 Total Requests26,579 Users/Accounts Requested80%
2015 Second Half19,235 Total Requests30,041 Users/Accounts Requested81%
2016 First Half23,854 Total Requests38,951 Users/Accounts Requested22,747 Legal Process Requests1,107 Emergency Disclosure Requests81%
2016 Second Half26,014 Total Requests41,492 Users/Accounts Requested24,319 Legal Process Requests1,695 Emergency Disclosure Requests83%
2017 First Half32,716 Total Requests52,280 Users/Accounts Requested30,852 Legal Process Requests1,864 Emergency Disclosure Requests85%
2017 Second Half32,742 Total Requests53,652 Users/Accounts Requested30,934 Legal Process Requests1,808 Emergency Disclosure Requests85%
2018 First Half42,466 Total Requests70,528 Users/Accounts Requested39,293 Legal Process Requests3,173 Emergency Disclosure Requests86%
2018 Second Half41,336 Total Requests63,622 Users/Accounts Requested38,509 Legal Process Requests2,827 Emergency Disclosure Requests88%
2019 First Half50,741 Total Requests82,461 Users/Accounts Requested47,457 Legal Process Requests3,284 Emergency Disclosure Requests88%
2019 Second Half51,121 Total Requests82,321 Users/Accounts Requested47,958 Legal Process Requests3,163 Emergency Disclosure Requests88%
2020 First Half61,528 Total Requests106,114 Users/Accounts Requested57,910 Legal Process Requests3,618 Emergency Disclosure Requests88%
2021 First Half63,657 Total Requests102,271 Users/Accounts Requested57,905 Legal Process Requests3,357 Emergency Disclosure Requests89%
2021 Second Half59,996 Total Requests111,117 Users/Accounts Requested60,256 Legal Process Requests3,401 Emergency Disclosure Requests89%
2022 First Half69,363 Total Requests103,665 111,117 Users/Accounts Requested56,230 Legal Process Requests3,766 Emergency Disclosure Requests87.97%

I don’t have any data from the second half of 2022 because Facebook hasn’t published it yet. But what we can see is that the US government is sending more and more data requests to Facebook.

In the first half of 2022 alone, they sent over 69,363 data requests, and you better believe it that the second half will have more.

And get this – Facebook has complied with 87.97% of these data requests throughout the years, meaning that in the vast majority of these cases, they did provide user data to US federal authorities when asked for it.

Moreover, when taken at a macro-scale, the United States sends the most user data requests to Facebook out of all other countries.

I should also explain what the terminology means:

  • Total requests – the sum of legal process requests and emergency disclosure requests
  • Legal process requests – Requests made by governments that are accompanied by legal processes such as search warrants. The data is disclosed according to Facebook’s Terms of Service and the applicable law of the country
  • Emergency Disclosure Requests – In the case of emergencies, law enforcement may submit data requests without legal processes, and in such cases, Facebook may choose to voluntarily give up data. Technically, without legal processes, they are not compelled to surrender the data
  • Users/Accounts Requested – Requests made by governments to obtain data about a particular user or account, not necessarily with legal process

With all of this in mind, you have a general idea of just how many government data requests Facebook received from the US alone.

Just to get a general idea, Facebook received a grand total of 237,414 government data requests in the second half of 2022, and 69,363 of those were from the US alone. Their compliance rate with all of those requests was around 76.10%.

Did Facebook’s Compliance Rate Increase Over Time?

Hmm, yes, Facebook seems to be complying with a bit more government data requests than before. If you look at the chart above, their compliance rate (for US data requests) was around 79-80% in 2013. In 2022, it comes around to 87.97%.

So, they appear to be complying with more data requests than before. However, let me make an argument as to why this isn’t happening because Facebook is becoming laxer with your personal data.

Let’s say that, out of the total 23,598 data requests in 2013, around 18,878 are legitimate requests that either:

  • Facebook is compelled to comply due to their ToS and applicable law
  • Facebook voluntarily hands over data in the case of an emergency (someone’s life is at risk)

That comes to around an 80% compliance rate.

Now, let’s take 2021 with its 123,653 total data requests. There are a LOT more data requests per year than there used to be. The number grew by about 424% from 2013 to 2021.

Out of those 123,653 total data requests, there are bound to be more legitimate ones that Facebook either is legally and contractually compelled to comply with or determines that someone’s life is at stake and hands over the data voluntarily.

Their compliance rate for 2021 was around 89%, so 9 percentiles more than in 2013. That’s around 11,128.77 data requests that Facebook complies with (amounting only to a difference of 9% from an 80% to 89% compliance rate).

Is it that hard to believe that there are 11,129 more legitimate requests in a grand total of 123,653 data requests than there were in a total of 23,598 (2013 total requests)? I think not.

There were around 18,878 legitimate requests that Facebook complied with a total of 23,598 in 2013. In 2021, there were around 110,051 requests that Facebook complied with, an increase of 482%.

So, I think that Facebook’s higher compliance rate is rather attributed to many more legitimate data requests coming their way, rather than the company becoming fast and loose with its customers’ data.

Back in 2019, Chris Sonderby, Facebook’s Vice-President and Deputy General Counsel, said in a blog post that “As we said in prior reports, we always scrutinize every government request we receive for account data to make sure it is legally valid. This is true no matter which government makes the request. If a request appears to be deficient or overly broad, we push back, and will fight in court, if necessary. We do not provide governments with <<back doors>> to people’s information.

My View on Facebook’s Compliance with Data Requests

I’ll start by saying two things:

  • No one should have access to your personal data
  • It’s impossible to protect 100% of your data 100% of the time if you go online

Now, when you choose to have a Facebook account, you have to understand that some portion of your data will end up in Facebook’s databases. Personal information like your name, birthdate, and so on.

Even if you don’t enter your real information (which Facebook doesn’t technically allow), some information will still reach them. You can’t stop it because it’s inevitable.

However, should you worry about Facebook selling your personal data maliciously? No, I don’t think so. But they are going to use it for their ad marketing and campaigns.

Do I think there’s a problem with Facebook offering its users’ personal data to government agencies when requested to do so? Maybe, maybe not. Does it end up saving someone’s life or putting a criminal behind bars? That’s fine by me.

But this can easily turn into a slippery slope where Facebook starts accepting too many government data requests voluntarily. It appears that they’re not doing that yet, based on official claims.

As for those data requests that they’re legally bound to comply with, there’s nothing you or anyone else can do about it. Not even Facebook has a say in it. If they want to operate in the US, they’ll have to abide by the local laws.

In the end, if you want to remain as private as possible, then don’t have a Facebook account or any other account. In fact, stop using the internet right now. Yeah, that’s not really an option. So, what you can do instead is provide as little information as permitted and use a VPN!


  1. Facebook – Transparency Reports
  2. ABC News – Facebook Says Government Requests for User Data Have Reached All-Time High
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Alex Popa

My name is Alex and I have a knack for social media in all its shapes and forms. I’ve dealt with such things for quite some time and I noticed that many people have issues with social media and technicalities.

Unforeseen errors, bugs, and other problems make their use of social media problematic. These things will be discussed amply in the guides on Whizcase.

I'll present the facts as they are, and offer quick and easy solutions for them.

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