Government Requests For Google User Data Up 120 Percent In Four Years

Edward Snowden privacy protest NSA US Washington © Rena Schild Shutterstock

Googles latest Transparency Report reveals a steep rise in government requests for data

Google has revealed that government requests to access data on its users have risen by 120 percent during the last four years.

The information is included in the latest edition of Google’s Transparency Report, which also revealed that the US government made over 10,000 data requests in last six months of 2013, far more than any other country.

Despite this, however, the percentage of requests where Google actually supplied user information has decreased slightly, to 64 percent in 2013 versus 76 percent three years earlier.

UK law enforcement agencies made 1,397 requests for Google user data in the period from July to December 2013, affecting 3,142 accounts, but data was only produced in 69 percent of these.  This was down from the first six months of the year, where 1,274 requests were made affecting 1,818 accounts, with data being produced in 67 percent of cases.

Google, Android © Lyao Shutterstock 2012Under watch

“While we’ve always known how important transparency is when it comes to government requests, the events of the past year have underscored just how urgent the issue is,” Richard Salgado, Google’s legal director of law enforcement and information security, said in a statement. “From being the first company to disclose information about National Security Letters to fighting for the ability to publish more about FISA requests, we’ve continually advocated for your right to know.”

Overall, Google received 27,477 data requests from various law enforcement agencies around the world during the second half of 2013. Those requests impacted a potential 42,648 accounts, according to the company.

This figure is slightly higher than that seen in the first half of 2013 (25,879 requests affecting 42,500 accounts). In 2012, Google revealed it received 42,327 requests throughout the year, which impacted a potential 68,249 accounts.

To better illustrate how governments go about requesting data, Google released an accompanying l video entitled “Way of a Warrant”. The video, featuring an animated take on the process, is meant to answer any questions users may have on how Google stores their data.

Google has been publishing transparency reports since 2009, with today’s release the ninth edition. This latest report covers a period dominated by growing public unrest concerning government surveillance, especially in the US following the myriad of revelations by whistleblower Edward Snowden. As mentioned, US users were subjected to the highest number of requests by a large margin, followed by India, France, Germany and the UK.

On the other end of the spectrum, Google’s report now also contains countries that make the fewest responses, which includes Bulgaria, Lichtenstein and even Vatican City, all of which made only one request for user data during the second half of 2013.

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Author: Mike Moore
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