Facebook, for the first time, has detailed how many user data requests it receives from each country. And since Twitter does the same thing, we can compare the two rivals by a curious but revealing metric: how much governments want their data.
Overall, data about Facebook users are much more coveted: The social network received at least 25,607 government requests in the first half of this year, compared with 1,113 for Twitter. That makes sense since Facebook is bigger, and Twitter stores less sensitive information about its users. There are simply more secrets hiding on facebook.com.
But the comparison gets more interesting when you look at specific countries and think of government data requests as an indicator of the social network’s perceived importance. For instance, Japan requested data from Twitter 87 times in the first six months of 2013; the country asked Facebook for data only once in the same period. Japan is one of the only developed economies where Facebook adoption is weak, while residents regularly set new records on Twitter.
The United States requests more user data from each company than any other country—by far (43–45% of requests to Facebook and 78% of Twitter’s). The same is true for Google, which has published data on such requests for a while.