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Is your government requesting user data from tech giants?

User data’; it‘s a phrase many of us might not even have been aware of until recent changes to the law made it a hot topic that we can‘t ignore. New data protection laws have forced technology companies to become much more transparent about the ways they use your data and how they are sharing it with global governments.

To do this, tech giants such as Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Facebook publish regular transparency reports, which shed light on how the policies and actions of governments and corporations affect privacy, security and access to information. However, these reports tend to be impenetrable to anyone who‘s not an expert on such matters, so we decided to create a series of visualisations to break it all down.

Who’s sending your data where?

These maps show where the tech giants are sending data. Facebook are top the list, granting 138,317 requests for user information. 64,351 instances of those involved data being sent to the US government, which made 75,208 requests to Facebook alone between 2010 – 2018.

In comparison, Germany, the second biggest requester of data, was granted 6,970 data requests from Facebook between 2010 – 2018. However, Germany were more interested in Apple’s user data, requesting and receiving 22,080 instances of user data in the past 8 years.

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What about Google you ask? They disclosed 70,908 instances of data to various countries, with almost half (30,332) of those going to the US government.

Which tech companies are receiving (and granting) the most requests?

The chart below compares the number of data requests the big hitters such as Facebook, Google and Apple receive – and more importantly, how many times they have shared data with governments.

Tech companies - transparency reports 2019
Tech companies – transparency reports 2019

As you can see, not all tech companies are handling requests the same way, with some of them denying more data requests than others. Here’s a quick overview of the percentage of data requests each tech company granted over the last 12 months.

Percentage - user data requests granted by tech companies

Facebook received the most requests (186,059) followed closely by Google who received 106,991. Facebook granted 74.34% of those requests while Google granted 66.27%. Both Apple and Snapchat granted just over 80% of all the requests they received.

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Top 20 countries requesting data from tech giants

These are the twenty countries which have sent the most data requests to tech giants. The US tops the table by some distance with a total of 151,047. Next up is Germany which made 59,220 requests in total, followed by India which made 40,116. There are no less than eight European countries in the top 20.

Top 20 countries requesting data from tech giants 2019

Which countries want your data?

These maps show which continents are making the most requests for your data. Not surprisingly North America tops the list here, helped along by the fact that the continent includes the US, which contributes 151,047 of those requests.

Next up is Europe with 144,543 requests. Things are a little more evenly spread here, but the U.K, Germany and France are by far the biggest contributors to the overall total.

Tracking information requests over the years (2010 – 2018)

With so much of our daily lives being spent on the internet (paying bills, writing to friends, work, is there anything that isn‘t online anymore?) – has this has impacted the number of information data requests being made by countries from around the world? In a word, yes.

This chart shows how information requests have grown over the years, spoiler alert, the curve goes upwards. Requests rose from 27,625 in 2010 to 382,242 in 2017.

But look closer and you‘ll see the figure dip in 2018, most likely due to the introduction of new data protection laws. It remains to be seen whether the curve will plateau in future years or if governments will find a way around it.

User data information requests 2010-2018

How the US compares to the rest of the world

Companies founded in The United States have been at the forefront of the digital revolution, inventing technology that has changed the world and the way we live forever.

So how is that reflected in the number of information requests from its government to these companies?  This chart shows many requests have come from the USA compared to the rest of the world.

Since 2010, between 32.17% and 40.65% of all requests made have come from the US.

How the USA compares - tech giants transparency reports

The internet has changed everything about how we live our lives, from buying a book to chatting with friends, everything we do online results in data. Finally, many of the mysteries around where this data ends up are now coming to light. Which companies are your country requesting your data from?

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To create these visualizations we started by generating a list of popular companies, including the top tech giants and the most popular social media platforms. We then had to check if each company had an easily accessible transparency report.

Our researchers then collected the transparency information from the chosen companies from 2010 – 2018. Each company displayed their data in slightly different ways, splitting things into different categories or using different words to describe the same type of data request, so our researchers had to decode this information and made sure it was all standardized.




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