Google released its most recent Transparency Report yesterday, and it's a doozy. This one focuses on which governments reach the deepest into Google's goodie bag of data and pluck out information about their citizens. The big takeaway? Requests for information have risen 70 percent over the past three years, and Uncle Sam is far and away Google's biggest data customer.
First, though, as they like to say on NPR's Marketplace, let's look at the numbers. (Though the current report covers just the last six months, I've added in figures from January through July.)
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In 2012, government agencies from 30 countries made 42,327 requests for Google data about 68,249 users. (Those figures only include countries that made 30 or more requests last year, so the actual numbers are higher.) The lion's share of those requests were made by -- no surprise -- agencies within the US of A. American law enforcement officials harangued Google more than 16,400 times last year, seeking the goods on more than 31,000 user accounts.
For comparison's sake, the second most data-hungry country was India, which made 4750 requests for data on 7573 users last year. In other words, India has slightly more than half the Internet population of the United States, but only one-fourth as many requests for data. (China, Iran, and North Korea are not included in Google's report; presumably they don't need Google's help to spy on their citizens.)
Overall, Google produced data for two-thirds of those requests. In the United States, though, it managed to hand over the goods 89 percent of the time. According to Google's FAQ page, all or nearly all of those requests related to criminal matters. What crimes were being investigated and what kinds of data got released, however, is known only to the G-men and the gMen.