There has been no shortage of government surveillance news this year. Oh, how the tables have turned with all eyes now on the NSA. Today Google has updated its Transparency Report for the eighth time showing that since the first time it reported these figures in 2010, government requests for user information have increased by more than 100%! Interestingly, the U.S. has over 400% more requests than any other country in the world. 83% of the U.S. requests, however, were satisfied (indicating proper merit) compared to 67% for the UK and only 49% for French requests. It’s important to note that these figures only reflect what Google is allowed to publish (perhaps short of requests deemed pertinent to national security).
In its report Google has included additional information about criminal requests like breaking out emergency disclosures, wiretap orders, pen register orders and other court orders. They are hoping to bring even more transparency to process of government requests, but that is not without its obstacles.
In a statement released with the report Google said:
We want to go even further. We believe it’s your right to know what kinds of requests and how many each government is making of us and other companies. However, the U.S. Department of Justice contends that U.S. law does not allow us to share information about some national security requests that we might receive. Specifically, the U.S. government argues that we cannot share information about the requests we receive (if any) under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. But you deserve to know.
Earlier this year, we brought a federal case to assert that we do indeed have the right to shine more light on the FISA process. In addition, we recently wrote a letter of support (PDF) for two pieces of legislation currently proposed in the U.S. Congress. And we’re asking governments around the world to uphold international legal agreements that respect the laws of different countries and guarantee standards for due process are met.
Our promise to you is to continue to make this report robust, to defend your information from overly broad government requests, and to push for greater transparency around the world.”