SHARE Defense and EFF Visualizing Google’s Transparency Report


First, let us shortly introduce you to our new family member – SHARE Defense, and then present you our first collaboration project with the famous Electronic Frontier Foundation.

SHARE Defense is our new international advocacy group established this year with the goal of engaging in public policy debates concerning digital rights and promoting positive values of openness, decentralization, and free access. Blending the expertise of lawyers, policy analysts, activists, artists, and technologists, SHARE Defense’s mission is to stop the oppression, censorship, and surveillance of future generations. The activities of SHARE Defense are supported by cooperation and friendship with a wide network of various institutions, individuals and organizations. As a watchdog organization SHARE Defense will critically monitor the activities of governments in Serbia and Balkan regions and provide policy support to any social, technological, and regulatory change which could affect our digital rights.

Now,  we are both honoured and excited to announce this among first projects of SHARE Defense, a visual collaboration with EFF – world’s most influential organization defending our rights in digital world.

Earlier this year, Google released its semi-annual transparency report. With each release, we have gained new insight into the massive quantity of user-data requests the search giant receives from states around the world. As part of our mission to spotlight the secrecy surrounding state surveillance, EFF and SHARE Defense have released three different charts highlighting trends in increasing state demands for user data.

What Countries Are Asking Google For User Data?

These charts below examine how total user data requests have increased and which countries and geographic regions are responsible for producing the greatest proportion of user-data requests. We commend Google for collecting and publishing these reports, which provide an invaluable portrait of the international thirst for private user information, and are glad that other companies are considering or moving forward with similar reports.

(click on image for higher resolution)

When the State Comes Knocking, How Does Google Reply?

Since Google first began releasing its transparency reports three years ago, international user-data requests have snowballed for Google — a trend that shows no sign of abating. How Google has responded to these requests has varied by region.

Google has received 33,279 requests from the United States, which leads way in demands for user data. The United States’ data requests include those issued by U.S. authorities for U.S. investigations as well as requests made on behalf of other states pursuant to mutual legal assistance treaties (MLAT).

These numbers are followed closely by European countries who have made 31,259 requests. Interestingly, European countries have the highest number of requests rejected, with Google refusing nearly half of their requests. Google will refuse to produce information for a number of reasons, including if the submitted requests are overly broad or submitted incorrectly.

Below, we highlight the number of requests Google received, the number of requests they provided, and the number they refuse to provide.

(click on image for higher resolution)

What Countries Ask For The Biggest Share of Netizen Data?

Google’s Transparency Report gives country-by-country statistics on the state requests it receives for personal private records. Below, EFF and SHARE Defense ranked the top countries requesting data—not by the total numbers of requests, but by how many accounts are requested relative to the total number of Internet users in each country. We believe this chart is fairer for countries that have a large Internet user population, but who make a smaller percentage of surveillance requests. These results are not a perfect measure, but we can still see the disproportionate activities of some small nations who make relatively relative high numbers of data requests. Google statistics refer to user accounts, and not the number of affected users. One user may have more than one account (see Google Transparecy Report FAQs). Moreover, Google is also less popular in some countries than others, which lowers the number of requests they receive from a particular jurisdiction.

While Google is not equally popular in all regions, the infographic shows alarming levels of requests for Hong Kong with 5 million users, with an Internet penetration of 74.5%, and Singapore with 4 million with a 75.0% penetration of Internet users. By comparison, Hong Kong’s neighbor Japan with 101 million users and penetration slightly higher 79.5% has the second lowest rate of requests.

India is ranked at number two by total number of data requests but if you take into account its large Internet population, its ranking falls. Neighboring countries can vary a great deal. The U.K. and France demand a disproportionate amount of user information, compared to Ireland and the Netherlands.

(click on image for higher resolution)

This article has been written by Katitza Rodriguez (EFF) and Olivia Solis (SHARE Defense).