Google Reports Rise In Data Requests From Governments

Google released its biannual transparency report Thursday, which reveals the frequency of the requests it receives from governments for private information about the public -- about the people who use search and its other services.

In the first six months of 2017, requests for information broke records. From governments worldwide, Google received 48,941 requests for data from 83,348 accounts between January 1 and June 30. 

Not all requests were fulfilled, the report says. About 65% of the requests were fulfilled, up from 60% in 2016. Google reviews the requests it receives to ensure that they meet applicable legal requirements and policies. If the request is too broad — one that asks for too much information, given the circumstances — Google seeks to narrow it. In certain cases the company will "push back" regardless of whether the agency making the request decides to challenge it legally.

Google has argued over the right of government agencies to request information because it means handing over content such as a search on, videos that someone has watched on YouTube or messages in email. It's not easy for a law enforcement agency to retrieve information. They must have a search warrant, fill out mounds of paperwork and detail the request for specific information.  

Governments are more frequently looking for information on tech companies, from social platforms such as Facebook to mobile devices from companies like Apple. On Thursday, Apple CEO Tim Cook tweeted: "At Apple, we believe privacy is a fundamental human right."

Apple's push to protect privacy got it into hot water with six ad industry groups. Earlier this month, when Apple implemented technology to help users keep their data private, representatives at the 4As, American Advertising Federation, Association of National Advertisers, Data & Marketing Association, Interactive Advertising Bureau, and Network Advertising Alliance blasted Apple over changes in changing cookie-tracking technology in Safari 11.

The technology known as Intelligent Tracking Prevention (IPT) will change the tracking procedures and limit the ability to capture cross-site browsing data that advertisers require to target ads.

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