In its updated Transparency Report, Google has revealed it received a total of 44,943 government requests for user data in the first half of 2016, with the US, Germany, France, India and the UK the countries making the most applications overall.
In the UK, Google received data requests for 3,302 users, with 71% of those resulting in account information being handed over. Meanwhile, in the US, which has consistently made the most requests since at least 2011, authorities sought data on just over 14,000 users.
In the first six months of 2015, for comparison, Google received 35,365 requests in total – 9,578 less than the current statistic.
Additionally, Google reported that 2016 was the first time it had ever received data requests from Algeria, Belarus, Cayman Islands, El Salvador, Fiji, and Saudi Arabia.
"Globally, we received 44,943 government requests for information regarding 76,713 accounts during the first half of 2016," wrote Richard Salgado, company director of law enforcement and infosec in a blog post, adding the firm provided data "in response to 64% of those requests."
He continued: As we have noted in the past, when we receive a request for user information, we review it carefully and only provide information within the scope and authority of the request. The privacy and security of the data that users store with Google is central to our approach.
"Before producing data in response to a government request, we make sure it strictly follows the law, for example to compel us to disclose content in criminal cases we require the government use a search warrant, and that it complies with Google's strict policies."
The transparency notice also revealed the FBI lifted a gag restriction on a National Security Letter (NSL) issued in the second half of 2015. As a result, Google updated these figures from the period – July to December 2015 – from 0-499 to 1-499.
NSLs are compel notices that are served by the federal government in the US, usually the FBI. Until recently, the contents of these classified letters were unknown however that changed after a number of major tech firms – including Yahoo – published them online, albeit in a redacted format.
According to Salgado, Google also saw an increase in the number of accounts covered by requests made under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which is a Watergate-era law that – as explained by the ACLU – "establishes how the government can secretly eavesdrop on Americans in their own country in intelligence investigations."