Google 'Transparency Report' shows rise in government groping

UK request numbers and success rates on a roller coaster

Percentage of responses to government requests for Google data

Google has released the latest update to its data detailing how often it is asked by law enforcement agencies around the world to cough up data about its users, and says company's “we’re … seeing more and more governments start to exercise their authority to make requests.”

That quote comes from an post by Richard Salgado, the Chocolate Factory's legal director for law enforcement and information security. Salgado's headline figure is 120 per cent, the number by which he says government requests have risen since Google started publishing its data in 2009. That's partly because more governments are asking and also because the company has more users.

Google's highlighting the trend in government request growth over the period of its reports. Here's a look at the number of requests it has received since 2009.

Government requests to Google for access to user data, 2009-2013

There's also the following, which Google seems quite proud of as it records a decline in the frequency of incidents in which it coughs up.

Percentage of responses to government requests for Google data

Google's posted data detailing the number of requests it receives here, in a 289-row spreadsheet that goes back to 2009. We've picked apart the spreadsheets to offer a little closer analysis of the four most Reg-reading nations.

Here's an interesting sample: data showing the UK's use of Google requests is not growing constantly, as is the case for most other nations.

Here's the UK's number of requests from 2009 to the new reporting period, 2013's second half.

Period Number of requests Success rate
H2 2009 1166  
H1 2010 1343  
H2 2010 1162  
H1 2011 1279 63
H2 2011 1455 64
H1 2012 1425 64
H2 2012 1458 70
H1 2013 1274 67
H2 2013 1397 69

Might the decrease in query numbers but slight uptick in successful requests show that UK authorities learned that some types of request were futile? We'll let you discuss that interpretation of the data in the comments. To help you along, there's a larger table of UK, US, Canadian and Australian data below.

And spreadsheets await your downloading pleasure if you want to get more forensic. ®

Period Country Legal Process User Data Requests % of successful requests Users/Accounts Specified
H2 2009 Australia   155    
  Canada   41    
  United Kingdom   1166    
  United States   3580    
H1 2010 Australia   200    
  United Kingdom   1343    
  United States   4287    
H2 2010 Australia   345 81  
  Canada   38 55  
  United Kingdom   1162 72  
  United States   4601 94  
H1 2011 Australia   361 73 412
06/30/2011 Canada   50 48 75
06/30/2011 United Kingdom   1279 63 1444
06/30/2011 United States   5950 93 11057
H2 2011 Australia   444 65 496
  Canada   41 24 49
  United Kingdom   1455 64 1764
  United States   6321 93 12243
H1 2012 Australia   523 64 841
  Canada   50 24 50
  United Kingdom   1425 64 1732
  United States   7969 90 16281
H2 2012 Australia   584 65 711
  Canada   38 24 77
  United Kingdom   1458 70 1918
  United States Search Warrant 1896 88 3152
  United States Subpoena 5784 88 10390
  United States Other 758 90 1249
H1 2013 Australia   645 64 807
  Canada   49 27 80
  United Kingdom   1274 67 1818
  United States Search Warrant 2456 81 4281
  United States Subpoena 7458 84 15770
  United States Wiretap Order 7 100 7
  United States Emergency Disclosures 119 81 175
  United States Pen Register Order 207 89 332
  United States Other Court Orders 671 69 1118
H2 2013 Australia   780 70 944
  Canada   52 25 75
  United Kingdom   1397 69 3142
  United States Search Warrant 2537 81 4180
  United States Subpoena 7044 84 11999
  United States Wiretap Order 11 100 11
  United States Emergency Disclosures 153 78 217
  United States Pen Register Order 140 90 259
  United States Other Court Orders 689 75 1588

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