Transparency Report: Google Receiving More Data Requests

Google puts out a transparency report that shows data requests that they've received from government entities every now and then, and the latest edition of that report comes with a few recommendations from Google on how international governments can go about streamlining data acquisition processes for international investigations. The report shows that Google received over 45,000 requests during the second half of 2016, which represents the largest amount of requests that they've received since beginning to create transparency reports back in 2010. Of those requests, 31,000 or so were from outside of the United States, with international governments asking Google for online records concerning their own people.

According to Google, rapid growth in the use of their services worldwide means that these numbers shooting up shouldn't really come as a surprise to anybody. Essentially, as more users jump on board, there's more data that could interest governments, which means that they will have to file more requests to get all of that data. They demonstrated their point with data that showed that Gmail's 2012 user count had more than doubled by 2016, bringing the service past the billion user landmark. Google's transparency report does not disclose exactly what the governments in question are looking for, so it's unknown what makes up the bulk of the requests. It could be anything from international manhunts for wanted criminals, to information needed for Right To Be Forgotten compliance, and even something as simple as demographic information.

Google says that the sheer volume of international requests shows that there is clear demand for a streamlined international framework for obtaining this kind of information under applicable law, and they have a few suggestions for exactly what kind of system should be put in place. Google proposes a sustainably maintained, all-digital framework to link databases between companies, agencies, and countries, allowing instant access to mission critical data or any data tied to a criminal investigation. While Google does not go into specifics on how such a system could work, the wording of their post implies that the companies holding the data would play a key role in maintaining and proctoring it. As messy as a system like this could theoretically be to implement, it's likely better than the current system, where a single request tied to an international criminal investigation can take up to 10 months to fully process.

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