The latest study by cybersecurity company Surfshark shows that the UK ranks 3rd globally in government surveillance based on the number of accounts specified in data requests by the local authorities and law enforcement agencies. In total, over 5 million accounts were requested in 177 countries from 2013 to 2020, with a steady increase in the latest years. The research shows that the US and EU authorities request the most data. 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 research shows that the United Kingdom ranks 3rd in the world based on the online accounts requested by authorities from 2013 to 2020 (486 accounts per 100k people), in comparison to Germany (2nd with 489/100K), Ireland (6th with 341/100K). The UK requests 625% more than the global average (67/100K). The latest data also reveals that all countries requested more than 5M accounts combined during an 8-year period.
Global trends show that government surveillance is growing
The number of accounts requested globally increased more than four times from 2013 to 2020, with 2020 seeing the most significant year-over-year increase of almost 40%. The UK shows the same trend, with a 140%(2-fold) increase from 2013 to 2020. In raw numbers, this is over 330 thousand accounts during these 8 years.
The overall disclosure rate in the UK is 81%, meaning that 8 out of every 10 account information requests are fulfilled. To put this in perspective, over the 8-year period companies disclosed data of around 267K accounts. Facebook and Microsoft are the ones that have disclosed the highest percentage of accounts to the authorities in the UK, 87% and 75%, respectively.
Globally, from 2013 to 2020, the number of disclosed requests grew by almost 280%. 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.
The Government Surveillance Report uses information from transparency reports published by four major tech companies – Apple, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft. The study identifies 177 different countries that have requested user data from these companies between 2013 and 2020. As a data request can cover multiple accounts, the research looks into the number of accounts specified in these requests, examines their global distribution per population, and compares the number of partially or fully disclosed requests. The collected data was aggregated and analyzed according to five major categories: user data requests received, partially or fully disclosed requests, percentages of disclosed requests, accounts specified within these requests, and requested accounts per 100K people in each country. Countries with less than 1M people were excluded from the ranking for statistical accuracy. Full methodology and data: surfshark.com/user-data-surveillance-report
Founder Dinis Guarda
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