Government Requests for User Data Increase in the U.S., Around the World According to Google

Josh WolfordIT Management

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Every six months Google unveils a new Transparency Report, which contains the figures on government requests for user data. It also gives us a look into just how often Google is giving up the goods.

Google has just released the new data.

Since Google began the Transparency Report in 2009, government requests for user data have increased, without fail, for every single reporting period. Today, we officially learn that the period ending December 31st, 2012 is no different.

Google reports 21,389 individual user data requests worldwide from July through December of last year. That's up from 20,938 during the period of January through June of last year. As it stands, the last period's requests are up 70% from when Google first began their Transparency Report.

Worldwide, Google is producing at least some data per request in 66% of these cases. That's down from 67% six months ago and down from 76% in December of 2010.

When we look at the United States specifically, we see a similar trend. User data requests have increased for the sixth straight time, hitting 8,438 in the period ending December 31st, 2012. In the period ending June 2012, 7,969 requests were logged. Those 8,438 specific data requests covered 14,791 different user accounts.

When Google made their first Transparency Report, 3,580 user data requests were reported.

One number that is falling is the percentage of requests in which Google complies either fully or partially - but barely. Google report compliance in 88% of government data requests in the U.S., down from 90% during the last reporting session.

With this Transparency Report, Google has implemented a mew metric. Now, you can break down the data requests based on the type of legal process that the government initiated - ECPA subpoenas, ECPA search warrants, and other.

This time, 68% of user data requests came in the form of ECPA (Electronic Communications Privacy Act) subpoenas. Google says that these are easier to get because they don't involve judges, and therefore are the most common. 22% of requests came in the form of ECPA search warrants, which are usually court-ordered. 10% fall into that "other" category,which Google describes as "mostly court orders issued under ECPA by judges or other processes that are difficult to categorize."

You may notice that this latest Transparency Report doesn't include new data on content removals, although all previous reports have. "One last thing: You may have noticed that the latest Transparency Report doesn’t include new data on content removals. That’s because we’ve decided to release those numbers separately going forward. Stay tuned for that data," says Google.

Josh Wolford
Josh Wolford is a writer for WebProNews. He likes beer, Japanese food, and movies that make him feel weird afterward. Mostly beer. Follow him on Twitter: @joshgwolf Instagram: @joshgwolf Google+: Joshua Wolford StumbleUpon: joshgwolf