Big Data

Google had more than 90k government requests for data in 2016, calls for new data framework

According to Google's latest transparency report, countries and courts around the world continue to ask for more and more data. As such, Google is calling for a new methods to process these requests.

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Image: iStockphoto/denizbayram

Governments and courts around the world continue to ask Google for more and more user data, according to the search giant's latest transparency report. The report, release Thursday, shows that Google received 90,492 government requests for users' data in 2016 alone—roughly a 19% increase from the 76,042 received in 2015.

Google's report noted that the firm discloses the requests it receives from the government in six month blocks, separating the first half of the calendar year from the second half. In the second half of 2016, Google received some 45,549 requests for user data.

The percentage of cases where the data was actually procured is also highlighted in Google's report, with 60% of all cases in the second half of 2016 receiving the data. That is down from the 64% of cases in both the first half of 2016 and the second half of 2015 that did.

SEE: Big data privacy is a bigger issue than you think

The statistics presented in the report show the number of requests that both Google and YouTube receive for the data they have access to. If we break it down by the number of user data requests by country, here are the top five:

  1. United States - 13,682
  2. Germany - 9,925
  3. France - 4,775
  4. India - 3,449
  5. United Kingdom - 3,177

Of course, the data can also be listed in order of the percentage of requests that Google complied with, or the number of users or accounts that were specified in the request. As previously noted, not every request guarantees that Google will provide the data.

"We review each request to make sure that it complies with both the spirit and the letter of the law, and we may refuse to produce information or try to narrow the request in some cases," the report said.

The number of requests that Google received in the latter half of 2016 marks the highest number of requests in a six month period that the company has received since it first began releasing a transparency report back in 2010. Being that many of the requests were cross-border, Google called for a new framework to handle and process such requests, detailed in another blog post. While Google didn't present a specific policy, it did note that personal privacy should be a balanced part of the new initiative.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. Google released its latest transparency report, noting that it received 90,492 government requests for users data in 2016, up 19% from the previous year.
  2. The US made the most requests, followed by Germany and then France, although that doesn't necessarily mean Google fulfilled those requests.
  3. Google also called for a new international framework or standard for handling such cross-border data requests at scale.

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About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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