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Google Receives Increasing Number of Government Requests

Google’s transparency report update for the first half of 2016 shows that the number of requests received by the search giant from governments has continued to increase.

Google’s transparency report update for the first half of 2016 shows that the number of requests received by the search giant from governments has continued to increase.

The company said it received nearly 45,000 requests seeking information on more than 76,000 accounts. Google reviewed each of these requests and complied with 64 percent of them, the same percentage as in the previous period.

Some governments made requests for the first time during this period, including Saudi Arabia, Fiji, El Salvador, Algeria, Belarus and the Cayman Islands. Each of these countries made only a handful of requests, but Google did not comply with any of them.

In the case of the United States, the government made over 14,000 crime-related requests for roughly 30,000 accounts. Data was produced in response to 79 percent of these requests.

U.S. authorities have also sent a large number of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requests and National Security Letters (NSLs). However, Google is prohibited from disclosing exact numbers for these types of requests and the data is subject to a six-month delay.

According to Google, the U.S. government made between 500 and 999 FISA requests for content associated with 21,000–21,499 accounts in the second half of 2015, compared to 16,000–16,499 in the previous six months. The FBI has lifted a gag order on an NSL issued in the second half of 2015 so the range has been modified from 0-499 to 1-499.

“In recent years, the United States has implemented or enacted meaningful surveillance reforms. And the U.S. Congress is beginning the process of assessing potential reforms to Section 702 of FISA, which authorizes surveillance of non-U.S. persons outside of the United States,” said Richard Salgado, Google’s director of law enforcement and information security. “We look forward to working together with others in our industry on continuing surveillance reform in the U.S. and around the world.”

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The highest number of requests, after the U.S., came from Germany (8,700), France (4,300), India (3,400) and the United Kingdom (3,300). Turkey made 390 requests, but Google only produced data in response to one percent, which is not surprising given the country’s poor human rights record.

Google’s transparency report was recently expanded to include the use of HTTPS on the world’s top websites. According to the company, there are still many highly popular sites that still haven’t implemented default HTTPS.

Related: Microsoft Launches New Transparency Website

Related: Google Adds Certificate Transparency Log for Untrusted CAs

Written By

Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.

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