Governments are demanding more data from Google than ever before

Government requests for data from Google reached record highs in the second half of 2015.

The Californian technology giant has updated its transparency report, which provides stats on — among other things — the amount of information about its users being demanded by companies around the world.

The latest? In the six months ending on December 31, 2015, Google received 40,677 “user data requests.” These requests for data involved 81,311 different user accounts.

It’s an all-time high, and a significant jump on the previous six months: In the first half of 2015, Google received requests for info on 68,908 user accounts.

Google doesn’t break down what the requests were in relation to, though they’re likely to run right across the spectrum of possibilities. These could be requests for evidence to help solve a case of identity theft, or the contacts of a terrorism suspect — or even an authoritarian regime seeking access to the communications of a dissident.

Of course, Google doesn’t say yes every time a government comes knocking. In an FAQ, it says it reviews any given request “to make sure it satisfies legal requirements and Google’s policies. Generally speaking, for us to produce any data, the request must be made in writing, signed by an authorised official of the requesting agency and issued under an appropriate law. If we believe a request is overly broad, we’ll seek to narrow it.”

According to its transparency report, Google provided some data in response to 64% of requests — suggesting around 52,000 user accounts’ data was provided to various governments.

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