Google, one of many sources Australian agencies can request user data from, says it complied with 334 government requests for Australian user data between January and June 2012.
Google received 523 user data requests from Australian agencies investigating criminal offences and complied with 64 percent of them, according to its latest semi-annual Transparency Report.
During that time it also received 841 requests for specified user accounts from Australian authorities, placing the country in the top 10 nations in both categories. Twitter and DropBox recently followed Google’s lead, while other web giants like Amazon, Yahoo!, Facebook and Microsoft do not publish similar numbers.
Australia has typically been in the top 10 since Google began its reporting figures in 2010, and like other nations, the number of requests has steadily risen. In the six months to December 2010, Google complied with 279 of the 345 Australian user data requests it received.
US authorities produced 7,969 user data requests to Google and achieved the highest level compliance (90%) from the company in the period. In India Google received 2,319 user data requests, followed by Brazil, France, Germany and the UK, with between 1,400 and 1,600 requests. Italy, Spain and Australia made between 500 and 900 user data requests to Google.
Google does not report what type of data it is asked to hand over, but one type it clearly holds a lot of is email, which along with SMS and voicemail, is classified as “stored communications” under Australia’s Telecommunications and Interception Act.
Annual figures reported by the Attorney Generals Department show that requests to Google make up less than one percent of total requests for stored communications in Australia, which often do not require a warrant but an “authorisation” from a nominated position within each agency investigating a criminal matter or protecting state revenue.
These include state and federal law enforcement agencies as well as the Australian Covert Bullying Prevalence Study, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the Australian Taxation Office and Centrelink.
While the number of Australian warrants granted for stored communications have hovered around 300 between 2008 and 2011, authorisations for stored data have consistently been over 240,000 a year in that period (PDF). State and territory police accounted for over 150,000 of the 243,000 times authorisation was given to access stored communications between 2010-11.