Google and Apple see dramatic rise in requests for user data

The US government asked for the majority of account data between January and June 2017

Data privacy

Reports released by Apple and Google have highlighted the large volume of requests they're getting from the US governments for user data.

Indeed, the volume of such requests has dramatically increased over the last 12 months, reaching a six-year high in Google's case. 

The search giant said it had received requests from the US government asking for 48,902 user account details between January and June 2017, compared to 44,493 in the same period of 2016. in comparison, the UK government requested 3,612 user details over the last six months.

However, the company said the number of requests could actually be lower than its figures, as governments may have asked for the same data multiple times.

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Apple's data showed a similar scenario. Although it measures slightly different data, the US government asked for user account 6,432 times, compared to 325 requests by the UK government.

Apple said it provided the data the government asked for in just 32% of cases, deeming the remaining 68% of requests as unnecessary.

Privacy International said the data provided by both companies is worrying, as governments take advantage of their power to request device data at the drop of the hat.

"What's remarkable is that in the last year or two, the US has been so activist in the idea... that it doesn't have the data that it needs," Privacy International's executive director Gus Hosein told the BBC. "Now we're seeing that it is increasing demands for data. Is it just taking advantage of that narrative?"

He added that the number of requests originating from the US will only increase when new legislation comes into force in October. Anyone wanting to visit the US will have to provide their social media account information, including their passwords before entering the country.

UK requests actually decreased by seven percent, on average, but other countries following the US' lead include South Korea, Spain and Brazil, with their governments all posting higher numbers of requests compared to previous periods.

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