The requests for Google user data filed by the U.S. government have more than tripled over the least three years, according to the latest Google transparency report released Thursday.
It’s interesting to note that the government essentially forces the company to leave out a great deal of information in their transparency reports, indicating that the numbers are actually higher than those published in their reports.
In the first half of 2013 alone, the U.S. government submitted 10,918 requests for data on 21,683 Google users, according to the report.
Compare that figure to only 3,580 requests in the U.S. for the first half of 2009, the first period for which Google released data.
Those figures do not include the highly controversial surveillance programs run by the National Security Agency (NSA), which reportedly involve intercepting Google’s traffic between data centers. The numbers only cover law enforcement investigations.
Richard Salgado, legal director of law enforcement and information security for Google, noted that “these numbers only include the requests we’re allowed to publish.”
The statistics only cover subpoenas and search warrants. Subpoenas give government agencies the authority to access IP addresses, names and other account information, according to The Hill. Search warrants allow for seizure of emails, photos and other content.
The number of requests from the U.S. is especially staggering when compared to the rest of the world.
All governments around the world combined filed only 25,879 requests covering 42,500 accounts in the first half of 2013. That means that the U.S. filed almost one half of all of the world’s requests.
Of the requests filed by the U.S. with Google, 83 percent were complied with, while only 63 percent of the total worldwide requests were complied with.
“We believe it’s your right to know what kinds of requests and how many each government is making of us and other companies,” Salgado wrote. “However, the U.S. Department of Justice contends that U.S. law does not allow us to share information about some national security requests that we might receive.”
Salgado wrote that the U.S. government argues that no information about requests received under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) can be shared with the public.
All FISA requests come with a built-in gag order that prevents the recipient from revealing the government request.
There are now attempts in Washington to bring more accountability to the NSA surveillance programs through new legislation, though the Obama administration claims it would actually harm the privacy of Americans.
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