Google jabs at US in latest report on government data demands

screenshot fo transparency report

Requests by governments around the world for user account have doubled in the last three years, according to a new “Transparency Report” from Google, which also reveals that such requests in the US have tripled during that time.

The report is significant because Google is a bellwether for trends in how governments are collecting information related to cloud-services like Gmail or Blogger. Other tech companies publish their own transparency reports, but the Google’s version is the most insightful since it is the most detailed and the company has been publishing them since 2010.

The new report covers the first half of 2013, and shows that the number of US demands has increased to nearly 11,000, compared to the 8,500 or so requests in the previous six month period. Around the world, the total number of government requests is at a new high of 25,879. The increase reflects new government interest in services like Gmail, but also reflects the fact that there are more people online every year.

The new Google report, which contains new categories, also has a more strident tone than previous one. The company’s blog post announcing the report, for instance, contains graphics that call attention to the US government’s aggressive surveillance and (bottom right) its efforts to gag companies from disclosing the number of NSA requests they receive:

Google Transparency report screenshot

The confrontational tone reflects the pitched legal fight taking place between the tech industries and the US government before America’s secret spy court over companies’ right to disclose surveillance numbers. The fight in part shows how Google, Microsoft and others are anxious to distance themselves from accusations that they collaborated in the controversial surveillance program known as PRISM.

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