Is the world twice as dangerous as it was four years ago? I doubt it. But governments around the world are now demanding twice as much data on Google users, and the search giant complies nearly all of the time.
In the second half of 2009, U.S.-based data requests numbered 3,580. At the midway point of this year, that number rose to 10,918 — a 205 percent increase, according to Google’s latest transparency report. During the same period, international data requests on Google users roughly doubled.
Google is not allowed to disclose how many of the 10,918 requests in the first half of the year were made under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), and the table below that contains that data is obscured.
Since Edward Snowden began leaking NSA documents, revelations of government spying on citizens flowed in numbing detail. If requests for data continue to increase at even half of the current rate, the privacy of U.S. citizens will soon be shredded.
“We want to go even further. We believe it’s your right to know what kinds of requests and how many each government is making of us and other companies. However, the U.S. Department of Justice contends that U.S. law does not allow us to share information about some national security requests that we might receive. Specifically, the U.S. government argues that we cannot share information about the requests we receive (if any) under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. But you deserve to know.”
Salgado is right. We do deserve to know. Snowden’s leaks already let the cat out of the bag about what the NSA is up to, so how would releasing the number of requests affect our nation’s security?
Rebecca Rosen of The Atlantic summed up the issue very well: “Google, it says, has been pressing the U.S. government for more leeway about what it can tell Internet users about its relationship with America’s national security apparatus. Unfortunately for users, that means persisting in a state of poor and often conflicting information about the security and use of the bytes and bytes of data we all create every single day.”
San Francisco journalist Bill Snyder writes frequently about business and technology. His work appears regularly in CIO.com and the publications of Stanford's Graduate School of Business and the Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley. He welcomes your comments and suggestions.