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Google Transparency Report Shows Jump in Data Requests

Demands for Google users' data have shot up 150 percent worldwide since 2009, according to the latest edition of Google's Transparency report.

According to Google, there has been a 250 percent increase during that period in the U.S. In the first half of this year, demands for information in the U.S. jumped 19 percent.

"This increase in government demands comes against a backdrop of ongoing revelations about government surveillance programs," blogged Richard Salgado, Legal Director, Law Enforcement and Information Security at Google. "Despite these revelations, we have seen some countries expand their surveillance authorities in an attempt to reach service providers outside their borders. Others are considering similar measures. The efforts of the U.S. Department of Justice and other countries to improve diplomatic cooperation will help reduce the perceived need for these laws, but much more remains to be done."

According to the report, Google received 31,698 government data requests during the first six months of 2014. Those requests were associated with roughly 48,000 accounts. Google provided some data in response to 65 percent of the requests.

The largest number of requests is from the United States, which was the source of 12,539 of the requests. Germany and France had the second and third highest, with 3,338 and 3,002, respectively.  

The report comes days after the release of documents last week related to Yahoo's failed fight against a government request for data. At one point, Yahoo faced a fine of $250,000 a day, according to Yahoo General Counsel Ron Bell.

"In 2007, the U.S. Government amended a key law to demand user information from online services," Bell in a statement last week. "We refused to comply with what we viewed as unconstitutional and overbroad surveillance and challenged the U.S. Government’s authority. Our challenge, and a later appeal in the case, did not succeed. "

"Governments have a legitimate and important role in fighting crime and investigating national security threats," blogged Salgado. "To maintain public confidence in both government and technology, we need legislative reform that ensures surveillance powers are transparent, reasonably scoped by law, and subject to independent oversight."

Salgado argued that Congress should also update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act to make it clear that the government must obtain a search warrant before it can force service providers to disclose the content of a user’s communication.

"Legislation introduced in the House by Representatives Yoder (R-KS), Graves (R-GA) and Polis (D-CO) and in the Senate by Senators Leahy (D-VT) and Lee (R-UT) would create a warrant-for-content standard that protects the Fourth Amendment rights of Internet users," he blogged.

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