Earlier today, Google released its transparency report which revealed a trend that is becoming worryingly common: The rise of internet surveillance around the world, with United States being the worst culprit as far as the number of user data requests made are concerned.
Google transparency reports have been released since 2010 on a semi-annual basis. The number of requests for data have increased by 70% since that first report. In the past 6 months, Google received 21,000 requests for data on 33,000 users from authorities all over the world. The US was responsible for 8,438 requests on 14,791 users which is a 33% increase from 2011. Google complied with 88% of the requests in the US as compared to 66% compliance rate from other governments.
Google has published a more detailed report this time around, showing the type of requests received from the US government under the main email privacy law, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has had a bone to pick with ECPA since they say email should be given the same warrant protection as physical letter snad phone calls. On the other hand the Justice Department says it does not need a warrant for emails over 6 months old.
Around 66% of the US data requests were by subpoenas, which are easier to get and don’t need a judge’s approval. Only 22% of US requests had accompanying probable cause warrants and a staggering 68.5% of request didn’t even consult a judge. These are only particular type of data requests. Many other surveillance tools and requests aren’t logged and data is not readily available on them.
Despite this, the US government along with other governments all over the world are vying for more control over digital data and EFF plans to fight to the tooth and nail against such measures which could threaten privacy and internet security and freedom. US isn’t the only culprit though, stats from other countries paint a grim picture as well. Here is what what the Google Transparency Report had to say:
- The number of inquiries from Europe has increased by almost 100%.
- The number of inquiries from Asia-Pacific region has increased by more than 200% since we launched.
- The number of inquiries from North America has increased by more than 100% since we launched.
Overall, the trend is worryingly obvious: Governments and authorities want control over data and are asking internet companies to comply with their data requests. It seems like the battle for privacy has just begun.