The number of government requests for information about Google users and accounts has increased in the first six months of this year.
According to the latest Transparency Report from Mountain View, Calif.-based Google, government requests for user data rose from 40,677 in the second half of last year to 44,943 requests during the first half of 2016.
US Government Leads Requests
Google provided information in 64 percent of those requests, unchanged from the second half of last year, according to a blog post by Richard Salgado, director of Law Enforcement and Information Security at Google.
US government officials accounted for 14,168 of the requests made. Google provided information on 79 percent of the cases.
Germany came in second with 8,788 requests. Google provided information on 59 percent of the cases.
France placed third with 4,300 requests, followed in fourth and fifth by India and the UK, respectively.
'Limited Info' Provided
With such a high rate of compliance, particularly in the US, it would seem that the requests are easy to fulfill. But Salgado argued that point, adding that only limited information is provided.
“When we receive a request for user information, we review it carefully and only provide information within the scope and authority of the request. The privacy and security of the data that users store with Google is central to our approach. Before producing data in response to a government request, we make sure it strictly follows the law,” he said.
In criminal cases, for example, Google requires a search warrant to limit government intrusion.
Microsoft Gets Fewer Requests
The update to Google’s Transparency Report comes just two weeks after Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft updated its report. That report showed fewer government requests for user data during the first six months of 2016.
Overall, Microsoft received 35,572 requests for data from law enforcement agencies, down eight percent from the the second half of 2015.
Just over 2.5 percent of law enforcement requests resulted in the disclosure of content customers created, shared or stored on Microsoft services. Like Google, Microsoft only discloses content after a court order or warrant.
Microsoft Files Suit
In a blog post about the requests, Steve Lippman, director of Corporate Responsibility at Microsoft, said the US government typically issues orders that require email providers to keep data requests secret.
“In April, we filed a lawsuit against the US government challenging what we believe is the routine use of secrecy orders, which prevent us — often indefinitely — from notifying some individuals when the government seeks their data. We believe that with rare exceptions consumers and businesses have a right to know when the government accesses their emails or records,” he wrote.
He adds that in many cases these secrecy orders contain no fixed end date.
The case is one to watch and it’s not just Microsoft. Apple, Google, Amazon, Mozilla, Salesforce and LinkedIn have all signed friend-of-the-court briefs in this case.