Google: Global government data demands up 150 percent in five years

Demands for user data requests have more than doubled in five years, with the U.S. government leading pack in the global intelligence gathering race.

Image: Google

Government demands for user data have rocketed by 150 percent in five years, Google warned in its latest transparency report.

The figures published on Monday show that worldwide numbers for data have increased by 15 percent in the second half of 2013 alone, amounting to a spike of close to two-times the requests Google first received when it published its debut report in 2009.

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The U.S. government, even in the wake of the Edward Snowden surveillance disclosures, hasn't slowed down its thirst for user data, hitting a 250 percent increase in "ordinary" data demands since 2009.

Those "ordinary" data requests include subpoenas, search warrants, and court orders, and do not include the top-secret and classified FISA warrants or National Security Letters (NSL). 

These shadowy government requests are so secret that companies are not allowed to disclose when they have received one. That said, thanks to new rules issued by the Justice Dept. , these figures can be disclosed in aggregate but not for the most recent six month period — allowing for ongoing government investigations to continue.

Google's transparency report showed for the first time nine countries — including Egypt, Indonesia, and the little-known British territory of Guernsey — asked the search giant to turn over user data for the first time, following in the footsteps of most Western nations.

Although the latest FISA figures are not yet out, the last reported range between July to December 2013 said there were between 0-999 non-content requests for 0-999 users or accounts.

For the same range, there were 0-999 content requests, accounting for between 15,000-15,999 users or accounts.

This figure is not exactly helpful to many, as it shows either none were received, or less than a certain amount were, due to the aggregate data range rules. 

Google said it supports the USA Freedom Act, proposed by leading senators, which would restrict the government's right to collect data in bulk.

"Congress should move now to enact this legislation into law," Google's legal director for law enforcement and information security Richard Salgado said in remarks.

"Congress should also update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act to make it clear that the government must obtain a search warrant before it can compel a service provider to disclose the content of a user’s communication," he added.