The latest Google Transparency Report indicates that governments are increasing efforts to track down criminals and terrorists through requests for private user data. According to the latest numbers from Google, world governments made 40,677 such requests in the second half of 2015. The search giant also reported that the number of requests represents the largest ever made in any six-month period.
The U.S had the highest total with 12,523 requests on 27,157 users. According to the report, Google provided the U.S. government with data in 79 percent of the cases. Rounding out the top five in government data requests were: Germany (7,491), France (4,174), United Kingdom (3,497) and India (3,265). For requests made by all governments, Google handed over data 64% of the time.
Google started publishing its Transparency Report in 2009, and government data requests have nearly quadrupled in the years since. In last half of 2009, governments made only about 12,500 requests to Google for user data. By the end of 2013, that half-year figure had nearly doubled. As you can see from the chart provided by Google below, the numbers continue to rise sharply. The latest numbers indicate a 15% spike versus requests made for the first six months of 2015.
In a Google Public Policy Blog post, Richard Salgado, a legal director with the company, wrote that the Transparency Report helps to “shed light on government surveillance laws and practices across the world.”
In the blog post, Salgado mentioned that some progress has been made when it comes to surveillance laws and wrote, “We’re pleased with some of the improvements we’ve seen in surveillance laws.” Salgado was referring to President Barack Obama’s signing of the Judicial Redress Act, which gives non-U.S. citizens more rights when it comes to acting on data privacy grievances with the government.
In the blog post, Salgado also noted the “Privacy Shield” agreement, entered into by the United States and the European Commission, which governs how data is transferred between the U.S. and Europe. Both the Judicial Redress Act and Privacy Shield are seen by privacy advocates as major steps forward in the protection of private user data.