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Google turns over user data in 94% of US demands

Facebook, Yahoo!, Microsoft? Who knows?

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The US government filed more than twice as many demands for data about Google users than any other other country in the past six months, according to figures the search behemoth supplied Monday.

What's more, according to the Google Transparency Report, Google fully or partially complied with the US demands in 94 percent of the cases, a rate that was higher than responses to any other government.

From July to December of last year, Google received 4,601 demands from US-based governments for information relating to one or more of its users, Monday's report stated. Brazil and India were second and third with 1,804 and 1,699 requests respectively.

Google at least partially complied with 94 percent of the demands received from US-based agencies. Japan, Singapore, and Australia had the second, third and fourth highest rates of compliance from Google, with 90 percent, 88 percent and 81 percent of demands honored respectively.

“Whenever we receive a request, we first check to make sure it meets both the letter and spirit of the law before complying,” the Google report stated. “When possible, we notify affected users about requests for user data that may affect them. And, if we believe a request is overly broad, we will seek to narrow it.”

Google is by no means alone in supplying information about its users to government agencies that file valid subpoenas or other legal documents demanding it for criminal investigations or other official purposes. What sets Google apart, however, is its reporting of how many times it receives such demands from each country and how many times it complied.

So far, Google competitors have steadfastly refused to say how many demands they receive and how often they are complied with.

The fact that Google on average complies with 19 of 20 US demands to turn over data about its users is cause for concern, but it's probably no more alarming than the compliance rates from Yahoo, Microsoft, and Facebook. Google was the only major search engine to challenge a 2006 Justice Department subpoena for two months of users' search queries. ®

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