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The bad news is that the U.S. government is asking for more data than ever about Google users, and a growing number of other places are getting the same idea. This year, nine countries — including the Dominican Republic, Egypt and Indonesia — asked Google to hand over information for the first time.
The good news, if you want to call it that, is that Google and other tech companies are publishing more details than ever before about government surveillance. On Monday, [company]Google[/company] published a blog post summarizing some findings from the latest update to its Transparency Report on user info. Findings include:
- Demands for user information in U.S. criminal investigations in the first half of 2014 increased 19 percent compared to the last six months of 2013. The overall increase is 250 percent when compared to a six-month period in 2009, when Google first started tracking these stats.
- Internationally, the numbers represent a 15 percent increase for the first half of this year, and an increase of 150 percent since 2009.
- Other countries asking for information for the first time are Albania, Kosovo, Luxembourg, Maldives, Namibia, Nepal and the UK territory of Guernsey.
The Google report also lists requests from America’s secret spy court, known as the FISA Court, which approved many requests under the PRISM program disclosed by ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The ability to publish the number of these requests (albeit only in ranges, like “0-999”) is the outcome of a recent legal victory by the tech industry; however, the latest figures are not yet available due to a mandatory six-month national security delay.
If you’re not familiar with Transparency Reports, here’s a screenshot that shows the different ways that the government asks for user information — search warrants, subpoenas and so on. The three columns reflect: 1) how many requests occurred; 2) how many Google accounts those requests represent in total; 3) how often Google complied. Also note how the number has increased in nearly every category:
Google’s blog post also repeats a call for Congress to pass the USA Freedom Act, proposed by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and others, which would restrict the government’s right to collect data in bulk. The company asks the government to update the outdated Electronic Communications Privacy Act so as to require the government to obtain a search warrant for older emails.