In 2013, a former NSA contractor, Edward Snowden, accused US and UK governments of using controversial mass surveillance programs to spy on their citizens and their activities online.
Since then, social media giants such as Google, Facebook and Microsoft are legally bounded to release transparency reports. These reports disclose the number of requests made by government officials to the internet giants, all for the express purpose to gain information about a respective country’s citizens.
What Is a Transparency Report?
The organization itself describes the report as,
“The statistics here reflect the number of law enforcement agency requests for information we receive at Google and YouTube, the percentage of requests that we comply with (in whole or in part) and the number of users or accounts specified in the requests. We review each request to make sure that it complies with both the spirit and the letter of the law, and we may refuse to produce information or try to narrow the request in some cases.”
Latest Transparency Report
Google recently updated their transparency report which reveals that US, Germany, France, India and UK governments are front runners in exploiting their citizens’ privacy.
United States, by far, are the worst offenders, with 30,123 of the 76,713 requests for user or account specified data coming from the US in the first half of 2016.
The latest data shows a record number of user data requests at 44,943, an increase of 4,266 from the last six months in 2015.
If we breakdown the request procedure in percentages, Google produced data for 79 percent of the US requests, 59 percent of Germany’s 13,425 and 60 percent of France’s 5,185 user requests. On average, Google complies with 64 percent of requests.
Today, we've updated our Transparency Report on government requests for user data: https://t.co/QZ84026rDV
— Google Public Policy (@googlepubpolicy) October 12, 2016
According to the report, the following countries also joined the list for the first time: Algeria, Belarus, Cayman Islands, El Salvador, Fiji and Saudi Arabia.
Richard Salgado, company director of law enforcement and information security, published a blog post on the update. He wrote,
“When we receive a request for user information, we review it carefully and only provide information within the scope and authority of the request,” he said.
“The privacy and security of the data that users store with Google is central to our approach. Before producing data in response to a government request, we make sure it follows the law and Google’s policies. We notify users about legal demands when appropriate, unless prohibited by law or court order. And if we believe a request is overly broad, we seek to narrow it – like when we persuaded a court to drastically limit a US government request for two months’ of user search queries.”
The top ten offender list is as below:
Pakistan is ranked at 44th, tied with Saudi Arabia, who are appearing in the report for the first time.
According to the report, Pakistan made 8 user data requests. Compared to US’s 79 percent, where some data was produced, Pakistan had 13 percent of its requests entertained.
You can take a look at Google’s transparency report here.