Updated: Google reveals government requests for user data on the rise

user data Updated: Google reveals government requests for user data on the rise

Google has released its latest transparency report, revealing that government surveillance is on the increase, with the United States making the most requests by far for data on users.

Google has released its latest transparency report, revealing that government surveillance is on the increase, with the United States making the most requests by far for data on users.

 
During the first six months of this year, the latest figures to be added to Google's tally, the search giant received 20,938 requests for user data from governments throughout the world, with those requests centring on 34,614 Google accounts.
 
Of those, close to 40 percent came from the United States, which made a whopping 7,969 requests, relating to 16,281 accounts. 90 percent of these were fully or partially complied with.
 
The next highest country is India with 2,319 requests relating to 3,467 accounts. 64 percent of these were complied with in some form. The UK, France, Germany and Brazil all came in with around 1,500 requests, with between 39 percent and 76 percent of them being complied with.
 
transparency countries Updated: Google reveals government requests for user data on the rise
 
Some countries like Hungary, Turkey and Russia made dozens of requests, but Google refused to comply with any of them. Compliance with the US is by far the strongest, followed by Japan at 86 percent, then Denmark at 78 percent.
 
Content removal requests also increased dramatically. Google said that from 2009, the year it started releasing these reports, to 2011, such requests from governments were “largely flat,” hovering around the 1,000 mark, but in the first half of this year it received 1,791 requests to take down content, relating to 17,746 pieces of content on the web. 
 
The vast majority of these were for defamation, but privacy and security also made up a huge chunk. There were relatively low amounts of requests for removal of government criticism, adult content, hate speech, and copyrighted material.
 
Google also commended fellow technology companies Dropbox, LinkedIn, Sonic.net and Twitter for jumping on the transparency report bandwagon in the last year.
 
transparency removals Updated: Google reveals government requests for user data on the rise
 
Update (15/11/12):
 
Christine Chen, spokesperson for Google, responded to VR-Zone's query about why Google complies with most requests made by the US government, in stark contrast to those made by other countries. She said:
 
"To clarify, compliance in whole or in part — meaning for some portion of the compliance percentage, we provided only a portion of the requested data. There are many reasons we may comply or not comply. Like all law-abiding companies, we comply with valid legal requests. We take user privacy very seriously, and whenever we receive a request we make sure it meets both the letter and spirit of the law before complying. Generally speaking, that means a request must be in writing, signed by an authorized official of the requesting agency, and issued under an appropriate law. If we believe a request is overly broad, we will seek to narrow it. The vast majority of requests from law enforcement agencies are valid and the information is needed for legitimate requests.
 
"On background you can check out the end of this article, which explains the role that mutual legal assistance treaties can play. Government requests for user data from the US include those issued by US authorities on behalf of other governments due to mutual legal assistance treaties (MLAT) and other diplomatic mechanisms."
 
Image Credit: Google