The latest Surfshark report analyses the number of accounts specified in user data requests for Big Tech by the local authorities and law enforcement agencies. In total, over 6.6 million accounts were requested in 177 countries from 2013 to 2021, with a steady increase in the latest years. Ireland ranks 6th globally and 4th in Europe with 395.6 accounts requested per 100k people. The research shows that US and EU authorities request data the most. Apple complied with the most user data requests (82%), compared to Meta, Google, and Microsoft (72%, 71%, and 68%, respectively).
Surfshark’s research analyses the just-released information on user data requests that Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft received from 177 countries’ local authorities between 2013 and 2021. The cases of requests may be related to criminal investigations, as well as civil or administrative cases when digital evidence is needed.
The research shows that globally, countries requested more than 6.6 million accounts combined during the 9-year period, while Ireland requested 19,648. Looking at requested accounts per population, Ireland ranks 6th in the world and 4th in Europe based on the user accounts requested by authorities over this time period (395.6 accounts per 100k people), in comparison to U.K. (4th with 583 accounts/100k).
Global trends show that governments request more user data than ever
The number of accounts requested increased more than five times from 2013 to 2021, with 2021 seeing a year-over-year increase of around 25%. Ireland shows the same trend, with a 876% (10-fold) increase from 2013 to 2021. Requested accounts grew by 62% in 2021 compared to 2020.
“Besides requesting data from technology companies, authorities are now exploring more ways to monitor and tackle crime through online services. For instance, the EU is considering a regulation that would require internet service providers to detect, report, and remove abuse-related content,” says Gabriele Kaveckyte, Privacy Counsel at Surfshark. “On one hand, introducing such new measures could help solve serious criminal cases, but civil society organisations expressed their concerns of encouraging surveillance techniques which may later be used, for example, to track down political rivals.”
The U.S. and Europe account for around 60% of all accounts of interest from 2013 to 2021. To compare the two, the U.S. requested more than double the accounts per 100K people than all EU countries combined. Looking at the top 10, five countries are from the EU. Singapore, the UK, Australia, and Taiwan comprise the rest.
Over the 9 years, companies fully or partially disclosed data from around 2.5 million requests. The overall disclosure rate in Ireland is 64.5%. Google and Meta are the ones that have received the highest number of account requests from authorities in Ireland.
Globally, from 2013 to 2021, the overall disclosure rate is around 71%. Apple has been leading in disclosure rates since 2016, raising them from 75% in 2016 to 86% in 2021. While Apple’s average is 82%, the remaining companies have slightly lower disclosure rates: Meta – 72%, Google – 71%, and Microsoft with 68%.
The Report on Government Requests for User Data uses information from transparency reports published by four major tech companies – Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft. The study identifies 177 countries whose government agencies have requested user data from these companies between 2013 and 2021. As a data request can cover multiple accounts, the research examines the number of accounts specified in these requests, examines their global distribution per population, and compares the number of partially or fully disclosed requests.
The collected data was aggregated and analysed in five major categories: user data requests received, partially or fully disclosed requests, percentages of disclosed requests, accounts specified within these requests, and requested accounts per 100K people in each country. Countries with less than 1M people were excluded from the ranking for statistical accuracy. Full methodology and data: surfshark.com/user-data-surveillance-report
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