Google: Governments Hungrier Than Ever For People’s Private Data

Tom Brewster is TechWeek Europe's Security Correspondent. He has also been named BT Information Security Journalist of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

Transparency Report shows another jump in requests for Google account user information

Google has released another one of its Transparency Reports, revealing yet another rise in government attempts to access citizens’ private data.

The tech giant received 21,389 requests for private data of 33,634 users between July and December 2012. That’s up from 20,938 in the first half of 2012 and 18,257 in the second half of 2011. User data requests of all kinds have increased by over 70 percent since 2009.

In the UK the number of government requests for users’ private data increased only slightly to 1,458 between July and December 2012, up from 1,455 in the same period in 2011.

Google may have also handed over more data to UK government bodies, as 70 percent of the requests were fully or partially complied during the second half of last year, up from 64 percent in the same period from 2011.

Google transparency shows privacy problems

Countries in the European Union made 7,254 requests for data from 9,240 users or accounts during the same period, averaging over 1,200 requests a month. That’s a 100 percent increase over the past three years.

Worldwide, Google has managed to stop giving out as much information as it did. In the second half of 2009 it complied (fully or partially) with 76 percent of data requests compared to 66 percent in the most recent count.

Privacy campaigners remain outraged at the level of government data grabbing. “Governments must stop treating the user data held by corporations as a treasure trove of information they can mine whenever they please, with little or no judicial authorisation,” said Carly Nyst, Privacy International’s head of international advocacy.

“The alarming statistics in this latest Transparency Report serve as a reminder of the need for stronger national and regional privacy protections in relation to online communications.

“To this end, Privacy International, together with a coalition of organisations including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, will soon be publishing a set of International Principles on Communications Surveillance and Human Rights.”

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