The latest study by cybersecurity company Surfshark shows that over 5 million accounts were specified in data requests by government and law enforcement agencies in 177 countries from 2013 to 2020, with a steady increase in the latest years. Globally, during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of accounts requested for government surveillance increased from 0.9M to 1.3M.
US and EU authorities request the most data
The research shows that the US and EU authorities request data the most. Apple complied with the most user data requests (80%) compared to Microsoft, Facebook, and Google (from 69% to 72%). Surfshark’s research analyzes user data requests that Apple, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft received from 177 countries’ local authorities between 2013 and 2020.
The cases of requests are related to government surveillance and law enforcement when digital evidence is needed in legal processes. The latest data reveals that all countries requested more than 5M accounts in total during an 8-year period. However, a quarter of them (1.29M) were made in 2020 alone.
US and EU authorities requested nearly two-thirds of all accounts of interest from 2013 to 2020. However, the US requested more than double the accounts per 100K people than all the EU countries combined. The US tops the list with nearly 2M accounts in user data requests since 2013 and 469K (almost half of a million)in 2020 alone. Looking at the top 10, five countries are from the EU. The UK, Australia, Singapore, and Taiwan comprise the rest.
Apple discloses 80% of all account requests
Globally, from 2013 to 2020, the number of disclosed requests grew by almost 280%. Currently, compliance (partial or full disclosure) with user data requests ranges from 66% to 73%. Apple has been leading in disclosure rates since 2016, raising them from 75% in 2016 to 85% in 2020. The remaining companies, Facebook, Google and Microsoft, average at 70%. More than half (58%) of all requests that Apple complied with came from the US.
Google’s disclosure rate has been increasing by nearly 4% every year since 2016. It peaked at 76% in 2020, placing Google 2nd behind Apple. Facebook’s disclosure rate has been slowly decreasing, although it remains significantly higher than in 2013 (73% vs. 63%). Even though Microsoft did have the highest disclosure rate between 2013-2015, it has the lowest percentage of complied requests out of all companies since 2018.