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Google fulfills rising data requests from governments

Government surveillance is on the up
Thu Jan 24 2013, 11:56
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INTERNET GIANT Google has released its latest transparency report and revealed that the number of user information requests from governments has risen by 70 percent over the last two years.

The firm also revealed what it takes for it to hand over information, and the answer is a range of things.

"Today we're releasing new data for the Transparency Report, showing that the steady increase in government requests for our users' data continued in the second half of 2012, as usage of our services continued to grow," said Richard Salgado, legal director of Law Enforcement and Information Security at Google.

"We've shared figures like this since 2010 because it's important for people to understand how government actions affect them."

This is the first report in which Google has decided not to release information about takedown requests. A separate report that covers just that will follow. Adding to this report is a breakdown of the legal processes involved in getting a company like Google to hand over user data.

As examples, the US situation is covered. Here Salgado said that over two-thirds, 68 percent of government requests were subpoenas. He said that these are "the easiest to get" because they do not require the involvement of a judge, and that they are issued under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, or ECPA. Such subpoenas are requests for "user-identifying information", he added.

When judges do get involved the numbers fall. Google reported that 22 percent of requests came as ECPA search warrants. These have to be approved by a judge following a demonstration of some crime and "probable cause". The remaining 10 percent is made up of court orders, issued under the ECPA by judges, which are "difficult to categorize".

The report shows that in the US Google complied with 88 percent of the 8,438 requests for information, and that this affected some 14,791 users or accounts. The US submitted the highest number of requests.

The UK is in fifth place after India, France and Germany, and here Google complied with 70 percent of the 1,458 requests. According to Google this related to 1,918 accounts.

In the UK and US the numbers of government requests for data have increased over the two years that Google has produced its report. µ


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