Google today published its biannual Transparency Report tallying worldwide government requests for user data. The company notes that requests are at their highest levels since reports were first published in 2010.
There were 45,549 requests in the second half of 2016, compared to 44,943 in the previous six month period. Like Google, Microsoft reported a similar uptick in government requests last week.
By country, requests from the United States declined from 14,168 in H1 2016 to 13,682 in H2. Requests from Germany and France, which are second and third, respectively, behind the US, rose.
However, the times that Google handed over data fell four percentage points after holding steady at 64% for the year prior. The current 60% compliance is at the lowest rate in seven years.
In a statement, Google notes the rise of cross-border data requests, with 30,755 requests from countries other than the United States in the first half of 2016 compared to 31,877 in the second half. This scenario is when a crime occurs in one country but data is held by a foreign company.
Google is calling for an improved international framework for procuring data as the current governing Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty takes too long. For instance, a request takes 10 months to process in the United States, which the company points out is a “long time for an investigator to wait.”
As a result, this increases the possibility of countries passing unilateral legislation to a “fundamentally multilateral problem.”
A sustainable framework for handling digital evidence in legitimate cross-border investigations will help avoid a chaotic, conflicting patchwork of data location proposals and ad hoc surveillance measures that may threaten user privacy and generate uncertainty for users and businesses, all without fundamentally advancing legitimate law enforcement and national security interests.
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