Irish authorities petition Google for information on users and accounts

Internet giant says worldwide requests for information at their highest late last year

Overall, Irish authorities put forward 38 requests for information regarding nearly 100 users or accounts in 2016

Overall, Irish authorities put forward 38 requests for information regarding nearly 100 users or accounts in 2016

 

Google received 19 requests for information regarding 34 users or accounts from Irish authorities during the second half of 2016, new figures show.

This is sharply down on the same period a year earlier when the internet giant disclosed information about 5,209 users of 12,113 customers following 14 law enforcement requests.

Overall, Irish authorities put forward 38 requests for information regarding nearly 100 users or accounts in 2016, compared to 29 requests on 12,244 users or accounts the previous year.

The company said data was produced for Irish authorities in 21 per cent of cases requested during the second half of 2016.

Google, which has just published its latest biannual transparency report, said worldwide requests for information from authorities during the latter part of 2016 were at their highest level since the company started publishing the index in 2010.

Overall, there were 45,549 government requests made globally in the second half of last year, versus 44,943 in the previous six month period.

Companies such as Google are only permitted to disclose limited data on law enforcement requests. So it is unclear why such a large number of users were targeted by Irish authorities in 2015, or whether those requests came from gardaí or another body.

The highest number of requests for information made to Google last year was from US authorities with 27,850 requests. It was followed by Germany and France.

Cross-border requests

Google said cross-border requests for data continues to account for a substantial portion of overall requests made, with more than 31,000 in the second half of 2016 coming from outside of the US.

“This volume underscores the need for an improved international framework that meets legitimate law enforcement needs and ensures high standards of due process, privacy and human rights,” said Kent Walker, Google’s senior vice president and general counsel.

“Without better and faster ways to collect cross-border evidence, countries will be tempted to take unilateral actions to deal with 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 privacy and generate uncertainty, without fundamentally advancing legitimate law enforcement and national security interests,” he added.

The company, whose Gmail service has more than 1 billion active users globally, said the percentage of requests in which it produces data had fallen from 76 per cent in the second half of 2010 to 60 per cent in the same period last year.

Microsoft, which this week also published a report outlining government requests for information, said it received 25,837 official requests on nearly 45,000 users or accounts in the second half of 2016.