Building on Surveillance Reform

Today, we've updated our Transparency Report on government requests for user data.  Globally, we received 44,943 government requests for information regarding 76,713 accounts during the first half of 2016.  We provided user information in response to 64% of those requests, which remains unchanged from the previous reporting period (i.e. the second half of 2015).  We also received our first ever requests from the following countries: Algeria, Belarus, Cayman Islands, El Salvador, Fiji, and Saudi Arabia. In addition, pursuant to the USA Freedom Act, the FBI lifted a gag restriction on an NSL issued in the second half of 2015. To reflect this, we have updated the range of NSLs received in that period — July to December 2015 — from 0-499 to 1-499.

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 (to prevent overreach that can compromise users’ privacy).  

In the US, in the current reporting period, Google saw an increase in the number of accounts covered by requests made under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) (21,000-21,499), compared to the previous reporting period (16,000-16,499). (Note that the USA Freedom Act authorizes companies like Google to report these figures in ranges, but not precise numbers.) 

In recent years, the United States has implemented or enacted meaningful surveillance reforms.  And the U.S. Congress is beginning the process of assessing potential reforms to Section 702 of FISA, which authorizes surveillance of non-U.S. persons outside of the United States.   We look forward to working together with others in our industry on continuing surveillance reform in the U.S. and around the world.