Oct 31, 2020 | Updated: 09:48 PM EDT

Google says government surveillance requests increasing

Nov 14, 2013 03:52 PM EST

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In an effort to provide more robust data about government requests for private user data, Google today updated its Transparency Report. New details include information about the legal process for criminal requests such as emergency disclosures, wiretap orders and pen register orders. According to the company, this is the eighth time that new information has been added to the report. Since Mountain View first began publishing the data in 2010, it says government requests have more than doubled.

“In a year in which government surveillance has dominated the headlines, today we’re updating our Transparency Report for the eighth time. Since we began sharing these figures with you in 2010, requests from governments for user information have increased by more than 100 percent,” the company wrote in a blog post. “This comes as usage of our services continues to grow, but also as more governments have made requests than ever before. And these numbers only include the requests we’re allowed to publish.”

Though Google has sued the U.S. government to allow it to disclose even more information, the company is still severely limited in what it is allowed to share with users. Currently, the company is only allowed to reveal aggregate numbers indicating the total amount of government requests for user data. The numbers are delineated between countries, but there’s no way to ascertain what agency requested the information, or who is being targeted. Additionally, any request submitted via the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act cannot be shared with users.

“We believe it’s your right to know what kinds of requests and how many each government is making of us and other companies. However, the U.S. Department of Justice contends that U.S. law does not allow us to share information about some national security requests that we might receive. Specifically, the U.S. government argues that we cannot share information about the requests we receive (if any) under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. But you deserve to know.”

Google says it will continue to lobby in support of legislation aimed at opening FISA requests up to public accountability, but given the current political climate, it’s likely to be an uphill battle.

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