Google transparency report shows substantial rise in government requests for user data

Google has just published its latest transparency report, which shows how often governments around the world have leaned on the search giant for data on users.

And unsurprisingly, given all the stories about increasing government surveillance online, the numbers are up considerably – in fact there's been a 150 per cent jump in government demands for user information globally, in the first half of 2014 compared to 2009. The increase has been 15 per cent compared to the latter half of 2013.

In the US, where the NSA has been creating the most waves and controversy with surveillance practices, the figures show a far bigger increase of 250 per cent since 2009, and 19 per cent since the second half of last year. Those numbers exclude FISA and NSL demands, incidentally.

Richard Salgado, Legal Director, Law Enforcement and Information Security for Google, noted in a blog post: "This increase in government demands comes against a backdrop of ongoing revelations about government surveillance programs. Despite these revelations, we have seen some countries expand their surveillance authorities in an attempt to reach service providers outside their borders."

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He observed that the US Department of Justice, along with other countries' diplomatic efforts could help reduce the "perceived need for these laws", but there's still a lot of work to be done on this front.

Salgado added: "Governments have a legitimate and important role in fighting crime and investigating national security threats. To maintain public confidence in both government and technology, we need legislative reform that ensures surveillance powers are transparent, reasonably scoped by law, and subject to independent oversight."

In the post, Salgado also pledged support for the USA Freedom Act, which he said the US Congress shouldn't hesitate in passing to law. This would curtail the bulk collection of internet metadata, and create stronger oversight and accountability when it comes to surveillance, he argued.

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