User Information Request by Governments Rises by 200 Percent in 5 Years


Google has released the latest version of their Transparency Report concerning government requests for user data, which includes user data for criminal cases as well as in the matter of National security (in US). The overall trends have shown that the requests have increased more than 200 percent in the past five years.

The user data disclosure requests have increased from 20,938 in the period between January 2012 – June 2012 to 48,941. The number of user accounts involved in these requests has also jumped from 34,615 to 83,345 during the same period.

In India alone, the number of requests from the government to obtain user data for legal matters has gone up from 2,319 in the first half of 2012 to 3,836 in the first half of 2017.

Government requests for user data (Global)

“Google fought for the right to publish this information in court and before Congress, and we continue to believe that this type of transparency can inform the broader debate about the nature and scope of government surveillance laws and programs,” the company stated.

Government requests for user data (India)

The stats might not be as surprising for India which has seen an immense increase in the number of people using the internet during the same period of time.

Google Updates its Electronic Privacy Laws

Both user privacy and assisting legal system in gathering needed evidence are important but given the current laws, one has to be given preference over other. Earlier this year, Google had proposed a new framework to tackle these issues.

Google had advocated towards enacting the International Communications Privacy Act (ICPA) with certain reforms and edits that will better suit today’s scenario.

While digital communication has evolved from erstwhile Telegram service to postal to telephone and now the internet but the laws governing the modern methods of communications are outdated and lack concern for user’s privacy too.

The outdated laws not only hinder the workflow of law enforcement agencies as procuring information isn’t as easy but they also affect user’s privacy in the former process.

“The recent introduction of the International Communications Privacy Act (ICPA) in the Senate and the House is a significant step in the right direction. ECPA should also be updated to enable countries that commit to baseline privacy, due process, and human rights principles,” the company added.

Once the countries have committed to baseline privacy and human rights — for privacy protection — Google advises a reform in the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLAT) process that will result in a quicker information exchange without creating privacy issues.

User privacy in the era of the Internet is one of the biggest concerns and since the internet makes up for most of the communication these days, law enforcement agencies will need to dig up evidence from it too.

“Providing a pathway for such countries to obtain electronic evidence directly from service providers in other jurisdictions will remove incentives for the unilateral, extraterritorial assertion of a country’s laws, data localization proposals, aggressive expansion of government access authorities, and dangerous investigative techniques. These measures ultimately weaken privacy, due process, and human rights standards.”

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Bike enthusiast, traveller, ManUtd follower, army brat, word-smith; Delhi University, Asian College of Journalism, Cardiff University alumnus; a journalist breathing tech these days.