Governments want Google’s data more than ever.
That’s the conclusion of the search engine giant’s latest Transparency Report, which indicates that governments around the world filed an increasing number of requests for user data in the second half of 2012. In the United States, some 68 percent of those requests came through subpoenas, while 22 percent came through Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) search warrants; the remainder was “mostly court orders,” according to Google’s Jan. 23 blog posting on the matter.
Google received a total of 21,389 requests for information about 33,634 users for the July-through-December timeframe. The United States topped the list with 8,438 user data requests, followed by India with 2,431, France with 1,693, Germany with 1,550, and the United Kingdom in fifth with 1,458.
The United States also headed the list of countries issuing court orders to remove government data from Google services, with 209, followed by Germany with 180, Brazil with 143, Turkey with 48 and France with 37. When that same data is broken down by “Other requests (executive, police, etc.)” instead of court orders, Turkey tops the list with 453 requests, followed by the United Kingdom with 79, Germany with 67, and the United States and India with 64 apiece.
Google complies a significant amount of the time with those removal requests (a full country-by-country breakdown is available inside the Transparency Report), but it also refuses to take down content if the request isn’t specific enough, or if the government body in question has submitted an informal letter in place of an actual court order.
Since 2009, requests for Google user data “of all kinds” have risen 70 percent. Google isn’t the entirety of the Internet, of course, but its voluminous data is more than capable of indicating general trends in the online world. “We’re heartened that in the past year, more companies like Dropbox, LinkedIn, Sonic.net and Twitter have begun to share their statistics too,” Dorothy Chou, senior policy analyst for Google, wrote in a corporate blog posting last November.