Google says government requests ‘up 120%’ in four years

by Victoria Thomason

01 Apr 2014

Google has said the number of requests it has had from governments to share information about its users has gone up by 120% in the past four years.

The rise was blamed on an increase in users, but the company also said more governments were starting to “exercise their authority to make requests”.

In releasing the data the search giant renewed its calls for government surveillance reform.

Last year, 53,356 requests for data were made globally, Google said.

The majority of requests come from the US – but the figures do not include bulk surveillance carried out by the country’s National Security Agency (NSA).

Google has been publishing the twice-yearly Transparency Report since 2009.

Transparency push

Not all requests Google receives are successful. In the period of July to December 2013, 69% of the UK government’s 1,397 requests resulted in user information being passed over.

In the US, 83% of 10,574 requests were granted.

“We consistently push back against overly broad requests for your personal information,” wrote Richard Salgado, Google’s legal director.

“But it’s also important for laws to explicitly protect you from government overreach.

Edward Snowden: Surveillance is ‘setting fire’ to the internet

“That’s why we’re working alongside eight other companies to push for surveillance reform, including more transparency.”

Following revelations from whistleblower Edward Snowden into US spying – technology companies have been pressing for more openness in the activities of governments.

Google has joined some of the sector’s big hitters – including Facebook, Microsoft and Twitter – in pushing for the right to publish data into national security requests as well demands made for law enforcement purposes.

Journalists targeted

In a separate publication on Friday, two Google engineers revealed the extent of state-sponsored hacking attempts on journalists and news organisations.

The engineers suggested that 21 of the top 25 news organisations in the world had been targeted – and that while general users face such attacks, journalists were “massively over-represented” in the study’s data.

Shane Huntley and Morgan Marquis-Boire presented their findings at the Black Hat security conference in Singapore.

Mr Huntley told Reuters: “If you’re a journalist or a journalistic organisation we will see state-sponsored targeting and we see it happening regardless of region, we see it from all over the world both from where the targets are and where the targets are from.”

He added that Chinese hackers had accessed a US news organisation – which was not named – by sending out a fake questionnaire to staff.

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