Google Transparency Report at first glance

Pierluigi Paganini March 28, 2014

Google has published its new Google Transparency Report related to the second semester of 2013, the number of requests for user information is still increasing.

While the Internet users continue to claim their right to online privacy condemning the numerous surveillance program and the censorship conducted by governments all around the world, it seems that the pressure operated on principal IT firm to access users’ data still increasing.

An excellent source of information to better understand the phenomenon is represented by the Google Transparency Report, a document produced regularly by the Giant that analyzes the requests from Government agencies to Google companies seeking information about Google users’ accounts or products. The report also includes data on National Security Letters sent by the United States government to Google. 

A National Security Letters (NSL) is defined as “a request for information that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) can make when they or other agencies in the Executive Branch of the U.S. government are conducting national security investigations. An NSL can’t be used in ordinary criminal, civil or administrative matters.”

Let’s consider, for example Google, the number of requests for user information the company receives from governments is increasing at a dizzying rate, climbing by 120 percent in the last four years. The requests to Google in the majority of cases are served by the company, on the overall 27,000 requests received in the last six months of 2013 the company has provided user’s information in 64 percent of the cases.

Google Transparency Report

Google Transparency Report 2

In H2 2013, Google received between 0-999 NSLs considering that the US Government only allows companies to report them in ranges of 1,000, the concerning news is that this time is affected more users or accounts respecting previous semesters. The Google Transparency Report also provides data on recent and ongoing disruptions of traffic to Google products and information of the overall requests from Governments to remove content.

Google reported 4 events characterized by traffic disruption to its product, Turkey is obviously one of them, other cases were observed in China, Iran and Pakistan.


Google Transparency Report Traffic distruption


US law enforcement and Intelligence agencies were the entities that most of all submitted requests for user data  nearly 10,574 requests covering 18,254 accounts,  France was second, with 2,750 requests for information about 3,378 accounts.

Google Transparency Report Requests x countirs

“We consistently push back against overly broad requests for your personal information, but it’s also important for laws to explicitly protect you from government overreach. That’s why we’re working alongside eight other companies to push for surveillance reform, including more transparency. We’ve all been sharing best practices about how to report the requests we receive, and as a result our Transparency Report now includes governments that made less than 30 requests during a six-month reporting period, in addition to those that made 30+ requests.” explained Richard Salgado, Legal Director, Law Enforcement and Information Security at Google.

Let me suggest you to give a close look to the Google Transparency Report.

Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs –  Google Transparency Report, surveillance)

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