Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Government Requests for Internet Data Explode

It is becoming increasingly evident that individual privacy is under attack by governments the world over.  The latest example comes by way of a Google report showing the number of requests for information about its users has increased by 120% over the last four years.  The publication is one of two that Google has been releasing biannually since 2009.

According to Google, the company received more than 53,300 requests for data last year.  Moreover, while the requests were made by multiple government entities across the globe, the majority of the requests came from the States.  Google was quick to point out that their numbers do not reflect the surveillance activities of the US National Security Agency (NSA).  When that is factored in, the situation is that much more alarming.

The Google report went on to say that not all requests for user information are automatically granted.  Google and its peers do their best to push back whenever it is believed there is the legal standing and responsibility to do so.  Of all of the requests made by the UK government in the second half 2013, only 69% were granted.  In the US, 83% were granted.

Google's legal director Richard Salgado maintains that his company complies with requests only when the law requires it.  At the same time, he firmly believes more laws need to be put in place to protect citizens from governments that would abuse their power through overreaching data requests.  Without more controls put in place, private Internet communications will quickly become a thing of the past.

Troubling Trend


Perhaps the most disturbing thing about the recent Google report is evidence suggesting that governments are specifically targeting journalists.  It is never good when government reaches its hands into commercial or personal areas where it does not belong, but it is even worse when that overreach involves journalism.

By design, the journalism profession is tasked with the responsibility of holding government accountable by reporting to the citizenry what their leaders are doing.  The fact that governments are now keeping tabs on the networking activities of journalists could have a stifling effect on what is actually reported.  Such activities could spell the end of the free press if not brought under control.

Google has joined forces with Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter to fight government overreach in the area of information requests.  It hopes to see others get on board to create a monumental push back that cannot be ignored.  We would be lying if we said we did not want them to succeed in their efforts.  We do.

As the world of Internet communications continues to grow and expand, privacy and security are two of the most important issues that we can never take our eyes from.  The minute we allow anyone to gain access to information that should remain private, we begin down that slippery slope of unending intrusion.  We agree that it is time to revisit national and international laws in order to restrict government overreach on the Internet.


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