The latest Transparency Report from Google shows government requests for information jumped dramatically during the past three years.
According to Google, there were 20,938 such inquiries from government entities around the world during the first half of 2012 for information about 34,614 accounts. The number of requests represents a significant hike from the second half of 2009, when Google received 12,539 requests from governments worldwide.
"This is the sixth time we've released this data, and one trend has become clear: Government surveillance is on the rise," blogged Dorothy Chou, senior policy analyst, at Google.
When it comes to requests for information, the United States is far and away the leader of the pack. In fact, the FBI's request to gain access to the Gmail account of Paula Broadwell—one of the women at the center of the scandal that caused the resignation of former CIA Director David Petraeus—was just one of the 7,969 requests Google received from the U.S. during the first half of the year.
After the United States, India (2,319), Brazil (1,566) and France (1,546) rounded out the top-four countries requesting data.
According to Google, the company either partially or fully complied with 90 percent of the requests from U.S. officials, roughly the same percentage as in the latter half of 2011, when Google complied with 93 percent of the 6,321 requests.
Google also fielded numerous requests from the U.S. government and courts to remove content during the first half of the year, including five requests and one court order to take down seven YouTube videos that criticized local and state government agencies, law enforcement or public officials. Google said it did not remove any content in response to these requests.
The company also received a court order to remove 1,754 posts from Google Groups related to a case of defamation against an individual and that person's family, and removed 1,664 of the posts as a result.
Other takedown requests included three court orders to remove 641 search results for linking to Websites that were alleged to have defamed organizations and individuals. Two hundred thirty-three of these search results were removed.
"The number of government requests to remove content from our services was largely flat from 2009 to 2011," Chou noted. "But it's spiked in this reporting period. In the first half of 2012, there were 1,791 requests from government officials around the world to remove 17,746 pieces of content."
"The information we disclose is only an isolated sliver showing how governments interact with the Internet, since for the most part we don't know what requests are made of other technology or telecommunications companies," Chou wrote. "But we're heartened that in the past year, more companies like Dropbox, LinkedIn, Sonic.net and Twitter have begun to share their statistics, too. Our hope is that over time, more data will bolster public debate about how we can best keep the Internet free and open."