Google is seeing more requests for user data worldwide, but it’s responding to fewer – Recode

Google received the most government requests for user data it has received in any six-month period, according to the company’s latest transparency report. The requests were made in the second half of 2016.

How companies respond to data requests from the government has gotten more attention since the election of President Donald Trump, as many people became wary over the possible development of a Muslim registry.

Tech companies came under pressure after the election to take a stand against building a database, and Google, Twitter and others all said they would not contribute to such an effort.

This is Google’s first such report since the election. Given the time period it covers, it doesn’t demonstrate any change in the rate of requests since the new administration entered the White House.


What the data show are a couple broad trends, which it should be noted were offset by user growth.

What’s particularly interesting is that Google is seeing more requests for user data worldwide and in the U.S., but it’s responding to a decreasing percentage of them.

Google reported 45,500 government requests for user data worldwide in the second half of 2016, up about 600 requests from the first half of 2016. The company said it received only about 12,000 requests in the second half of 2009.

About 13,600 requests in the most recent period pertain to the U.S., which was actually a decrease of 500 requests from the previous period, and has fluctuated at other points as well. But the overall trend in U.S. requests, like trends worldwide, is up.

“In many ways, this shouldn’t be surprising,” wrote general counsel Kent Walker in a blog post. “As more people use more of our services, and as we offer new ones, it is natural that we are seeing an increase in government requests. For example, Gmail had around 425 million active users in 2012 and more than one billion by 2016.”

As requests have increased, Google reports the percentage of requests in which the company produces data has decreased. The company reported that in the second half of 2010 it produced data in response to 76 percent of requests. In the second half of 2016, that went down to 60 percent.

Google is more responsive to U.S. requests, returning data for 79 percent of requests in the last six-month period. That’s down from 94 percent in the second half of 2010.


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