Australian government requests for Facebook data grow by a third

Australia bucks global trend with a 36 per cent increase in requests for data from the social network

Requests from Australian police and government agencies for Facebook user data climbed in the second half of 2014, newly released data from the social network shows.

In the period spanning July to December last year, Facebook received 829 requests for data from Australian government agencies, Facebook's updated Governments Requests Report states.

In 68.4 per cent of the cases data was handed over by Facebook. The requests covered 933 user accounts.

The number of requests equate to a 36 per cent increase compared to the first half of 2014.

"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.

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

Facebook said it 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."

Globally, the amount of content that Facebook restricted access to grew, but the number of government requests for account data remained relatively flat.

Facebook and other social networks escape the net of the government's proposed data retention regime.

Although they can be subject to requests for data from law enforcement organisations, as so-called over-the-top services they are not mandated to retain two years of user data.

The data retention bill is set to be debated today. The government late yesterday indicated it would accede to a request from Labor to force police to obtain warrants before accessing journalists' metadata to identify the sources of stories.

The breadth and wording of the amendment and what constitutes a journalist under the regime have not yet been revealed.

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