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Government requests for Google user data are skyrocketing, latest transparency report shows


Google’s latest Transparency Report, in which it discloses statistical data on government and court requests for user data, show that the number of requests continues to climb, up 18% on the preceding six months. Google’s compliance – the percentage of time where it hands over at least some data – is holding steady at around 64%.

The law requires companies to delay their reporting by six months, so the latest data is for the second half of 2015, where 40,677 requests were received relating to 81,311 accounts. The greatest number of requests came from the U.S. government, followed by Germany, France, the UK, India, Singapore and Australia.

For requests relating to national security, Google has to be much more vague in the information it is permitted to share …

It could say only that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requests it received fell into the 0-1498 range, and that National Security Letters requests were in the 500-999 range. The number of users impacted by these were in the 16,000 to 16,499 range.

In a blog post announcing its latest report, Google said that it was ‘pleased with some of the improvements we’ve seen in surveillance laws.’ The company highlighted the Privacy Shield agreement between the U.S. and European Commission, and the Judicial Redress Act which extends protections enjoyed by U.S. citizens to other nationalities.

Google went on to say, however, that more needs to be done to protect user privacy, especially in the case of international investigations.

We helped create the Reform Government Surveillance coalition to encourage Congress and the executive branch to take steps to modernize U.S. surveillance laws, further protect the privacy and data security rights of all users, including those outside the US and those not of US nationality, and improve diplomatic processes to promote a robust, principled, and transparent framework for legitimate cross-border investigations.

The graph below shows the rise in the number of accounts affected by user data requests.


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