Most of us share massive amounts of personal information online, and big tech companies are in many ways the gatekeepers of that data. But how much do they share with the authorities? And how often do governments request user data?
According to new research from the VPN provider SurfSharkthe answer is a lot and a lot again.
As described in the new from SurfShark report analyzed the requests for user data Apple, Google, Meta and Microsoft received from government agencies in 177 countries between 2013 and 2021, tech giants receive many requests for user data, and mostly they fulfill them.
Of the four Big Tech companies surveyed, Apple was the most accommodating, fulfilling 82% of requests for user data, compared to Meta (72%), Google (71%), and Microsoft (68%). Interestingly, Big Tech was more compliant in the UK as compared to global figures, exposing user data 81.6% of the time.
The report shows that the US and Europe make the most requests for user data, accounting for 60% of all cases between 2013 and 2021. Germany took second place worldwide behind the USA with 648 inquiries per 100,000 inhabitants. The UK government ranks fourth, requesting seven times more user data from big tech companies than the global average. In the top 10, five countries are from the EU, with the rest from the US, Singapore, the UK, Australia and Taiwan.
Governments are increasingly requesting this information, presumably in response to the surge in online crime in recent years: the number of requested accounts more than quadrupled between 2013 and 2021 6.6 million. This data is often used to support crimeAl In investigations, but it can also help resolve civil or administrative cases where digital evidence is needed. This can include specific user information, from IP addresses to device locations.
Governments request more user data every year. Photo credit: Surfshark
In addition to requesting data from tech companies, authorities are now exploring other ways to monitor and fight crime through online services, says Gabriele Kaveckyte, privacy advisor at Surfshark.
Last year, the EU proposed a regulation that would oblige internet service providers to identify, report and remove abusive content. While this is a notable reason, some expressed concerns that the new laws would undermine end-to-end encryption and thus user privacy.
“On the one hand, the introduction of such new measures could help solve serious crimes, but civil society organizations have expressed concerns about promoting surveillance techniques that could later be used, for example, to track down political rivals,” says Kaveckyte.
In recent years, big tech has fought among themselves and with the authorities over the confidentiality of data. fears of government surveillance Doubts also prevail about the ability of technology companies to keep data safe – especially considering a number of high-profile companies leaks.