Google reports massive, record breaking increases in Government data requests for Personal Data

Google reports massive, record breaking increases in Government data requests for Personal Data

Google reveals 2017 statistics on data it was forced to hand over under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act And the FISA Amendments Act

The world’s largest data giant has released its biannual transparency report on Thursday, disclosing to the world the frequency of requests it received from governments for users’ private information, along with how often Google complied with the request. The first half of 2017 broke a record for most Google user data requests over a six-month period.

For the first six months of the year 2017 ending June 30, Google  reported that it received 48,941 requests for data from 83,345 accounts from governments around the world. The company complied with 65 percent of them, meaning more than 54,000 accounts private data were handed over.

That’s 4,000 more requests than the same time period in 2016. The number of reported requests on Google have been steadily increasing since the company began publishing transparency reports in 2009, This year’s results broke the previous record achieved back in 2014.

Under the ECP and FISA Acts, State agencies have made it an almost acceptable norm to compelled Tech companies to reveal all our confidential data with claims that it is in the interest of national security. Apple also reported an all-time high with its transparency report released on Thursday, showing that national security requests tripled since last year.

The Electronic Communications Privacy Act

The Electronic Communications Privacy Act, known as ECPA, regulates how a government agency can use these types of legal processes to compel companies like Google to disclose information about users. This law was passed in 1986, before the web as we know it today even existed. It has failed to keep pace with how people use the Internet today. That’s why we’ve been working with many advocacy groups, companies and others, through the Digital Due Process Coalition, to seek updates to this important law so it guarantees the level of privacy that you should reasonably expect when using our services.

Tech companies like Google and Apple often release these transparency reports to let their users know how frequently government officials demand data from them. Because of Google’s massive ecosystem, these requests would mean handing over data on content like your Gmail messages, documents you’ve saved, videos watched on YouTube, or any web activity that falls under Google’s umbrella.Google has argued against the US government for the right to disclose these requests, including a lawsuit in 2013 to fight gag orders from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.


What types of data are being handed over?

Non-content requests: Non-content requests implicate metadata, like the “from” and “to” in email headers or the IP addresses associated with a particular account.

Content requests: A content request implicates content held in a user’s account, such as Gmail messages, documents, photos, and videos on YouTube.

All Inclusive No limit National security letters: A National Security Letter (NSL) is a request for information that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) can make when they or other agencies in the Executive Branch of the U.S. government are conducting national security investigations. Only entities in the Executive Branch have the authority to issue NSLs and they cannot be used in ordinary criminal, civil, or administrative matters.


What is being Done to protect you?

Google is forced to provide information to the US government under Section 702 of the FISA Amendment, legislation that is set to expire at the end of 2017. Google, along with Microsoft and Amazon, are actively lobbying law makers to modify The Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

“Government access laws are due for a fundamental realignment and update in light of the proliferation of technology, the very real security threats to people, and the expectations of privacy that Internet users have in their communications,” Google said in a blog post alongside its transparency report.