Surge in user info requests from govts: Google

Data from Google has revealed that the number of requests for user information from law enforcement agencies are at an all time high.

Google said it had received 21,389 applications from government officers and the courts over the last six months of 2012. That is 17 percent up on the same period the previous year, and 71 percent more than 2009's corresponding months.

Authorities in the US delivered nearly 8,438 of the requests, representing nearly 40 percent of the worldwide total. The US volume was one-third higher than in the same period the previous year.

Subpoenas accounted for 68 per cent of US requests, followed by search warrants at 22 per cent. A mix of court orders and other legal demands made up the remaining US requests for user information from Google.

India generated the second highest number of user requests during the final half of last year at 2,431, a 10 per cent increase from the previous year.

The figures include requests related to its YouTube video service.

Google said it handed over at least some data in 66 percent of the most recent cases.

The number of requests has risen over every half-year cycle since Google started publishing details three years ago.

The US made more requests than any other country with 8,438 submissions. Google complied fully or partially with 88 percent of these.

By contrast all of Turkey's 149 requests and Hungary's 95 applications were rejected outright. The UK made 1,458 requests - a very slight rise on the same period in 2011. 70 percent of them resulted in some information being provided.

One UK-based privacy advocacy group praised Google for releasing the data, but said it also served as a warning to individuals to be careful about the information they passed on to any online business.

Carly Nyst, Privacy International's head of international advocacy, said the information they hand over to companies like Google merits the highest degree of privacy and security, and should only be accessed by third parties under exceptional circumstances.

Nyst added that governments should stop treating the user data held by corporations as a treasure trove of information they can mine whenever they please, with little or no judicial authorization.

Google said it would publish details of removal requests at a later time.