Government requests for user data from Big Tech companies like Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft increased more than five times from 2013 to 2021, with 2021 alone seeing a year-over-year increase of around 25%.
Companies also complied with an increasing number of requests with each year witnessing a 56k increase on average in disclosed requests. Apple complied with the government the most, submitting 82% of requests, followed by Meta at 71.7%, Google at 71%, and Microsoft at 68.2%.
Overall, companies complied with 127k requests in 2013 compared to 592k requests in 2021.
While the US and the EU authorities requested data the most, accounting for around 60% of all accounts of interest from 2013 to 2021. India ranked 36th on the list, a report from Surfshark, a cybersecurity and VPN provider, said.
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India ranked 36th in the world based on the online accounts requested over this time period accounting for user data requested for 58.7 accounts per 100k people. In comparison, China stood at the 65th spot with 6.7 account details being requested for 100k.
The U.S. requested more than double the accounts per 100K people than all the EU countries combined. And all 177 researched countries requested more than 6.6M accounts combined from 2013 to 2021.
While most requests relate to criminal investigations, information may also be requested in the context of civil or administrative cases. And since a data request can cover multiple accounts, the research examines the number of accounts specified in these requests, and their global distribution per population compared to the number of partially or fully disclosed requests, the report said.
“Besides requesting data from technology companies, authorities are now exploring more ways to monitor and tackle crime through online services”, said Gabriele Kaveckyte, Privacy Counsel at Surfshark.
And while such new measures help solve serious criminal cases, civil society organisations have expressed their concerts of encouraging surveillance techniques which may later be used to track down political rivals, she added.
The report, based on information from transparency reports published by four major tech companies, Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft did not include data from Amazon due to the lack of and/or inconsistency in reporting user data disclosure practices.