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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.