Dropbox reports a steady rise in government data requests

The firm received 268 requests during the first half of 2014

Dropbox Datastorage

Dropbox Datastorage

Interest in Dropbox is growing among users, and law enforcement too.

The company said Thursday that the number of government requests for user data was keeping pace with the growth of its service. The assessment came in Dropbox's latest transparency report, which breaks down the number and types of government data requests received and Dropbox's response to them.

The company received 268 requests total for user information during the first half of 2014, representing just a sliver of its 300 million users. Still, the number of requests received grew proportionately to the company's user base, Dropbox said in its report.

"The rate of government data requests received per user remains steady," the company said. Google, to compare, received around 27,000 user data requests during the second half of 2013.

Dropbox's 268 requests include several different types of data requests -- search warrants, subpoenas, court orders and non-U.S. requests -- each typically seeking different types of data. With search warrants, for instance, Dropbox may produce users' actual stored files. But the company only provides non-content information, like user names and email addresses, with subpoena requests.

Dropbox, like other companies such as Google and Facebook, says it scrutinizes each request to make sure it satisfies legal requirements before it complies and hands over data. For the 120 search warrants it received, for instance, Dropbox produced user information and files in 103 instances. But notice to users was provided for less than half of those cases, according to the report.

Throughout last year, Dropbox received 367 government data requests total. This week's report is the company's first six-month tally.

The newly released numbers reveal more than just authorities' interest in consumer data stored in the cloud. In a fair number of cases, law enforcement agencies also want Dropbox to keep those requests secret.

Around 80 percent of the 109 subpoenas Dropbox received, which like other requests pertained to both criminal and civil cases, had gag orders attached asking Dropbox not to notify users of the requests. Agencies make these secrecy requests even when they have no legal right to do so, according to Dropbox, and the company says it only complies when a valid court order or equivalent is provided.

Companies like Dropbox are currently prevented from giving numbers on data requests made in the interest of national security, at least beyond a vague range. Dropbox said it received between 0 and 249 national security requests during the first half of 2014.

A broad range of technology companies including Dropbox, Microsoft and Google have advocated for new legislation that would let them say more about the precise numbers of secret court orders and surveillance requests they receive.

One thing is clear though: Dropbox said it did not receive any government data requests for information on Dropbox for Business accounts in the past six months.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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Zach Miners

IDG News Service
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