Google provides the most user data to the U.S. government, but what does that really mean?

Google provides the most user data to the U.S. government, but what does that really mean?

Summary: Be careful what you read. It's not just the headlines, it's the relative data that helps provide deeper insight.

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Here's an interesting chart, courtesy of our friends at Business Insider.

This chart shows how many request were made by governments to Google about Google users, and how many Google complied with.

To parse this properly, you really need to normalize the results, because the number of requests from a country like America, with 308 million people will undoubtedly be more than the U.K., with a 62 million person population.

When you first look at the chart, it seems like the U.S. government is being the most intrusive. But if you compare it with the U.K., which has only about 20% of our population, you'd expect the U.K. government to have made only 20% of the requests of the U.S.

Instead, the U.K. made about 3/5ths the number of requests as compared to the U.S. government. Population for population, therefore, the U.K. government is really almost twice as intrusive into its citizens data than the United States.

Be careful what you read. It's not just the headlines, it's the relative data that helps provide deeper insight.

Interesting stuff. Thanks to Jay Yarrow over at Business Insider for letting us run his chart.

See also: Google Transparency Report: U.S. accounts for most user data requests

Topics: Government US, Google, Government

About

David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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5 comments
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  • It means most people here are right

    Google isn't the best company to go with if you're looking for privacy.
    Will Pharaoh
    • RE: Google provides the most user data to the U.S. government, but what does that really mean?

      @Will Pharaoh Use https://duckduckgo.com/ under SSL. I do not use Google for search anymore
      adaedone
    • Really?

      @Will Pharaoh Wow, you are right. 4300 requests complied with over 6 months for 308 million people. Clearly they are giving all your data to the government.
      sgredell
      • RE: Google provides the most user data to the U.S. government, but what does that really mean?

        @sgredell

        Of course, if each request was for data on 70,000 people...
        aep528
    • RE: Google provides the most user data to the U.S. government, but what does that really mean?

      @Will Pharaoh
      The INTERNET isn't the best place to go with if you're looking for privacy. Let's not be omissive here!
      tomaaaaaa1