Last year, Google established a transparency report revealing the requests it receives for user data from the government conducting criminal investigations, as well to as record disruptions in service and follow traffic patterns.
Yesterday, Google released an update to its report from January to June 2011, disclosing for the first time the number of users or accounts that were in requests, not just the number of requests.
Wired reports that during this six month timeframe, government requests for user data were up 29 percent, averaging 31 requests per day. Google honored 93 percent of the government’s requests.
Wired goes on to note that the government wasn’t just asking for Google to provide information, but also to take it down:
The search and software giant also received 92 requests to remove data from its services, including YouTube. The requests collectively asked for 757 individual pieces of content be removed. Google says it complied fully or partially with 63 percent of the requests. The company noted it received a request from law enforcement to take down a video showing police brutality and another for videos allegedly defaming law enforcement officials. Google did not comply with either.
Some things, accorded to Wired, are not included in Google’s report, such as National Security Letters; “national security wiretap and data requests, known as FISA warrants, that are approved by a secret court in D.C. to combat spies and threats to national security”; and information of requested of those outside of the United States.
In its blog, Google writes that it provides this information in its transparency reports to showcase the need for updated Internet privacy laws, like the 25-year-old Electronic Communications Privacy Act. Wired notes that because Google does not categorize requests made to it by type, that it is unclear how many fall under the ECPA. But, although Internet Service Providers and email providers, advocate updating of ECPA, only Google produces such a report. It’s something that Gregory Nojeim, senior counsel for the Center for Democracy and Technology, told The Blaze he thinks more sites should do.
“[Google's report] is a wonderful tool,” Nojeim said. “I wish more companies would publish some of their info so people would have a better idea the extent to which law enforcement is obtaining information on their communication.”
Google’s blog post shows the same sentiment: “Yet at the end of the day, the information that we’re disclosing offers only a limited snapshot. We hope others join us in the effort to provide more transparency, so we’ll be better able to see the bigger picture of how regulatory environments affect the entire web.”
Nojeim said that unless the law is changed to provide as much protection online as we expect on our lives offline, then we can expect to see these requests to increase and our privacy to decrease.