Australia trails only the US in data requests

Summary:The Silk data request database reveals that the United States makes 3,085 requests per million internet users, followed by Australia on 2,870 requests per million, then France, UK, and Germany.

Australian authorities asked tech companies for more user data last year than their counterparts in any other country barring the United States, a compilation of "transparency reports" reveals.

Australian authorities made 52,017 requests for user data from companies such as Facebook, Google, Apple, and Microsoft — or 2,870 for every million internet users.

That was more than authorities in Germany, France, and the UK, but less than those in the US, which made a hefty 784,511 requests.

The figures are found in a new database created by online information-sharing site Silk, which groups all available transparency reports.

Most major tech firms now release the reports to try to shine a light on how government agencies use telecommunications data during investigations.

The reports usually disclose the number of user data requests companies have received in six-month increments.

The user data includes the basics, such as names, addresses, and email addresses, though in rarer cases may include sensitive information such as the content of emails. The information is largely sought in the course of criminal investigations and occasionally in emergency situations, such as a suicide threat.

Tech companies have a right to contest the requests, as they did successfully in 85 percent of Australian cases.

The vast majority of Australian requests — some 40,000 — were made to Telstra, which released its first ever transparency report in March.

Microsoft received 4,738 Australian requests, Google 4,037, Yahoo 1,312, and Facebook 1,149.

However, the Silk compilation does not provide an exhaustive picture of data requests.

Several companies, such as Optus and Vodafone, have not released local transparency reports and therefore the real number is likely to be considerably higher.

Moreover, the numbers do not include requests made by national security agencies such as ASIO, which are secret.

Topics: Security, Privacy

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