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Google says government data requests are up 120% since 2009

Warwick Ashford

Google has said that requests by governments for information about its customers have increased by 120% since 2009.

“Though our number of users has grown throughout the time period, we’re also seeing more and more governments start to exercise their authority to make requests,” Richard Salgado, Google’s legal director of law enforcement and information security wrote in a blog post.

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He said Google is working with eight other companies to push for surveillance reform, including more transparency.

“We’ve all been sharing best practices about how to report the requests we receive, and as a result our Transparency Report now includes governments that made less than 30 requests,” he wrote.

From July to December 2013, US authorities made 10,574 requests for information on 18,254 accounts, according to Google’s latest transparency report for data requests by government agencies.

The US made the most data requests in the period, followed by France with 2,750 requests for information about 3,378 accounts and Germany with 2,660 requests about 3,255 accounts.

The UK was fourth in the rankings with 1,397 requests for information about 3,142 accounts, followed by Brazil with 1,085 requests for information about 1,471 accounts.

Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, AOL, Microsoft, LinkedIn, and Yahoo, formed an alliance called Reform Government Surveillance group in December 2013.

The group is pressing for greater transparency and urgent reform after whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations about internet surveillance programmes such as Prism in the US, and Tempora in the UK.

In the first sign of progress, the US recently allowed technology giants to disclose the broad number of national security letters (NSLs) they receive.

NSLs are used to obtain information about a subscriber from telephone and internet companies, but recipients of NSL had previously been barred from disclosing any details about them.

But the technology firms want further reforms and met president Barack Obama last week to push for clearer limits on the information the US authorities can collect, more oversight and accountability.

The firms are concerned that public loss of trust in technology will hurt their businesses, and are calling on governments to help restore that trust.

In related efforts to distance themselves from US and UK internet surveillance programmes, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo have introduced advanced encryption methods to protect customer data.

Microsoft, Yahoo and Google have also published transparency reports on the overall number of government requests for data.


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