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January 28, 2013

U.S. Continues to Inundate Google with Requests for User Info

Government requests for Google’s users’ data continues to rise globally but, once again, the United States is leader of the pack.

In the July to December period of 2012, Google received 8,438 requests for information from the U.S., a six percent increase from the first half of 2012, according to the search engine giant’s latest Transparency Report. Google received 21,389 requests for information globally, a two percent rise from the first half of the year.

Countries that made the most requests were:

• The United States — 8,438 requests for information about 14,791 users.

• India — 2,431 requests for information about 4,106 users.

• France — 1,693 requests for information about 2,063 users.

• Germany — 1,550 requests for information about 1,944 users.

• The United Kingdom — 1,458 requests for information about 1,918 users.

• Brazil — 1,211 requests for information about 2,526 users.

“User data requests of all kinds have increased by more than 70 percent since 2009, as you can see in our new visualizations of overall trends,” says Google’s legal director Richard Salgado in a blog post. “In total, we received 21,389 requests for information about 33,634 users from July through December 2012.”

The report also details the legal processes used by American authorities making the requests.

• Sixty-eight percent of the requests were via subpoenas. These are requests for user-identifying information, issued under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) and are the easiest to get because they typically don’t involve judges.

• Twenty-two percent were through ECPA search warrants. These are, generally speaking, orders issued by judges under ECPA, based on a demonstration of “probable cause” to believe that certain information related to a crime is presently in the place to be searched.

• The remaining 10 percent were mostly court orders issued under ECPA by judges or other processes that are difficult to categorize.

Google complied with 88 percent of requests from authorities made by subpoena or search warrant.

“We’ll keep looking for more ways to inform you about government requests and how we handle them,” Salgado says. “We hope more companies and governments themselves join us in this effort by releasing similar kinds of data.”

Click here to read the complete report. Unlike previous reports, Google has opted to release data about requests for content removal separately. That report is to be released in the coming days.




9 Responses to “U.S. Continues to Inundate Google with Requests for User Info

    Scary thought Jennifer, in the wrong hands & and the wrong governments… The world is getting smaller by the minute. Governments all across the world will always use whatever methods or opportunities they can to gather as much data as possible about the population. In your article here we are looking at information about potential crimes and helping to solve them, which is a good thing, however you have to wonder how far this could possibly go. Are we looking at a future similar to Big Brother in George Orwell’s 1984, some would say were already there! George Orwell once said:-
    “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past”
    Still, if you have nothing to worry about, you have nothing to worry about… right? 🙂

    Yes, I am sure governments will always push for more and more information. Still, without subpoenas, court orders or warrants, Google does not have to comply — as long as the company maintains its current philosophy of protecting the user, all of us law-abiding citizens should escape scrutiny!

    Fingers crossed…. but watch this space in the years to come, governments could offer a whole host of incentives to a large company like Google. Not that they would of course!

    This is disturbing on so many levels. While I applaud Google for not just handing out information it is frightening to think that soon a government will find a way to Big Brother the Internet.

    avatar Bill Jeux says:

    This news is old…. was on ars last week… good job on copying another article!

    Thanks for your feedback Bill. The article is not “copied.” I wrote my article based on the report and did not see/read the story to which you are referring. Unfortunately the report came out on Friday (a day I did not happen to be working) so I had to play a little catch up.

    Come on Bill, old news to you maybe but I’d not seen it and nor had Patrick.

    avatar GaiaLogic says:

    “Still, without subpoenas, court orders or warrants, Google does not have to comply” (from the author’s comment in response to another)

    But does this matter when…

    “Sixty-eight percent of the requests were via subpoenas. These are requests for user-identifying information, issued under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) and are the easiest to get because they typically don’t involve judges.”

    If judges do not need to issue such requests, then it is outside of the legal framework, with a group of people able to issue said subpoena against anyone they wish – which Google is then compelled to comply with.

    My fear is not so much that my data might be checked, it’s that I don’t know who might one day be elected and in control of such power.

    In the UK the government wants the power to manage databases of all UK citizens, their search history, their emails, their phone calls and text messages… this is worse than anything from Soviet Russia. My fear is that one day the British National Party or UK Independence Party might gain power and access to that information gathering system.

    Imagine if Hitler had possessed such information about the citizens of Germany. One search of a database and every person critical of the government is revealed, with address, family members, medical records, phone numbers…

    Most people didn’t think Hitler would ever rise to power. Most in Europe underestimated the public sentiment after the economic crash. Most people still don’t understand that Hitler used everything already in place to hunt down and murder millions of victims – systems implemented by the previous governments which made his absolute control far easier to achieve.

    Imagine that scenario with the data now available to governments.

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