What happens when the government wants to know more about someone’s online and computer-based activities?
Well, if it is a criminal investigation, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) gives the government the right to request personal information on customers from companies that provide online services, like Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Facebook.
We still believe more transparency is needed so everyone can better understand how surveillance laws work and decide whether or not they serve the public interest,” according to the official Google blog. “Specifically, we want to disclose the precise numbers and types of requests we receive, as well as the number of users they affect in a timely way.”
The issue made headlines last year when details about the special investigations–revealed by CIA whistleblower Edward Snowden–made front page news around the world.
Requests for personal information from the U.S. Government have continued to increase, along with requests from government officials in other countries, like Germany and France, according to Google.
A special judicial body, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, must approve the requests in advance.
In the second half of 2013, Google says it received 10,574 criminal investigation requests from American authorities. France made 2,750 requests and Germany had 2,660.
Overall, Google said it received 27,477 such requests in the last six months of 2013 and complied with the request in 64 percent of the cases.
Google first started tracking the requests in 2009 and now issues a twice-yearly report with details.
“We consistently push back against overly broad requests for your personal information, but it’s also important for laws to explicitly protect you from government overreach,” said Richard Salgado, Google’s legal director of law enforcement and information security, in the official Google blog.