Google reports a 19% jump in US government data requests

Governments of many nations are increasingly asking Google to hand over information on its users

Google fielded 19 percent more requests from the U.S. government for data on its users in the first half of this year compared to the second half of last year, the company said Monday.

Of the 12,539 requests it received, the firm produced user data in around 10,000 of those cases, Google said in its latest transparency report, which tallies government data requests from around the world and Google's response to them. The majority of those requests came in the form of subpoenas and search warrants.

Google employs a nuanced approach for determining how to comply with government data requests, which usually pertain to content and non-content information stored across Google's services like Gmail and YouTube.

Worldwide, the number of total data requests Google received rose by about 15 percent to 31,698, the company reported. Outside of the U.S., Germany, France and India led other nations in the number of requests made.

The increase in government data demands comes after more than a year of revelations about massive government surveillance programs, notably in the U.S. Despite the revelations, some countries have expanded their surveillance to reach service providers outside their borders, Google said.

The aforementioned figures don't include the number of requests received under the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which can require companies to hand over personal data for national security cases; or National Security Letters, which ask for non-content information like names and addresses.

As it stands now Google and other tech companies can only report those figures in vague ranges. Due to a six-month reporting delay, Google did not give a range for the FISA requests, but it's been in the 0-999 range since 2009.

The company said it received 0-999 National Security Letters for the first half of 2014, like in previous years.

Google, in its report, urged for legislative reform to let it be more transparent, and reign in bulk data collection by authorities. For one, Congress should enact the USA Freedom Act to let companies say more about the numbers of national security requests they receive, it said.

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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