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Tech-crime: Serbia Leads Regionally for Most Meta User Data Requests

Since 2013, Facebook (now Meta) has released data on transparency every six months – which includes requests for user data sharing from government organisations – with Serbia leading the way in 2021 and 2022.

Serbia sent Meta the most requests for data exchange compared to all other states in the region (624 in 2021 and 472 in 2022). Ljubiša Bojić from the Laboratory for Digital Society, IFDT, discussed the reasons why with EURACTIV.

“This could mean that more inquiries and cases need data from the Meta platform. Additionally, this information might indicate that Serbs use Meta platforms more frequently than other nations, increasing the data valid for inquiries. It is the case. Users of the Meta platform are twice as numerous in Serbia as, say, in Croatia”, said Bojić.

The prosecutor’s office dealing with high-tech crime lacks the resources to cover all cases and online abuses. Spreading lies, threats, and hostility are all prohibited, and so is misusing the prosecutor’s office for political ends.

“States can request different types of data from Meta, such as investigations into criminal activity, terrorism, violence, and other abuses. Basic user information, including name, email, registration date, material shared on the platform, IP address, location data, session and login data, and others, are among the requested data types”, explains Bojić.

Meta has policies and procedures for handling these requests, and most of the time, to do so, a formal court order or its equivalent is needed.

The Department for the Fight against High-Tech Crime (VTK) of the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Serbia (MUP) told EURACTIV that the Special Prosecutor’s Office for the Fight against High-Tech Crime is in charge of the pre-investigation process. When the prosecutor decides there are sufficient reasons to contact Meta, he directs the MUP.

Criminal acts identified by the authorities include endangering security, stalking, causing panic and disorder, forgery and misuse of payment cards, and fraud. Also, high-tech crimes include unauthorised access to a protected computer, computer network and electronic data processing, fraud, and sabotage. In addition, MUP also fights child sexual abuse via the Internet and computer, VTK Department told EURACTIV.

Meta’s data shows that by the number of orders that were the subject of state requests for obtaining information about users, Serbia is in first place (1,064 in 2021 and 822 in 2022), followed by Croatia (346 orders in 2021, and 276 in 2022), Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia and Montenegro.

Source: Euractiv