Study shows another annual increase in global internet surveillance

New research points to a rise in user data surveillance for the seventh consecutive year, with the number of requests per 100,000 citizens across 66 countries increasing threefold between 2013 and 2020

Global user data surveillance has increased for the seventh consecutive year, according to a new study.

The User Data Surveillance Report by cybersecurity firm Surfshark examined user data requests received by some of the world’s biggest tech companies – including Apple, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft –across 66 countries between 2013 and 2020, finding that the number of annual requests per 100,000 people by authorities to those companies increased threefold in that time.

Of the top 10 countries with the highest number of user data requests, seven were from the European Union, followed by Singapore, the US, and Australia.

The study explored the number of user data requests submitted by governmental authorities, comparing the amount of fully- or partially-disclosed requests and then analysing their global distribution per population.

“An increasing number of governments are deploying a range of surveillance technologies under the promise of maintaining order and public safety” – Vytautas Kaziukonis, Surfshark

With 756 requests for user data per 100,000 people, Malta tops the list of user data surveillance, followed by Singapore (373) in second, and Germany (353) in third. Conversely, Kenya, the Philippines, and China are at the bottom, each with less than one request per 100,000 people.

Despite EU countries’ dominance of the list, findings show that the corporations received almost 40% more user data requests from US authorities than from all EU countries combined during the seven year timescale.

Overall, Google leads in the total number of disclosed requests for user data since 2013, but the corporation’s request disclosure average (58%) has actually been one of the lowest of all four companies, behind only Apple. In 2o19, Google’s disclosed user data request totals were surpassed by Facebook.

In the seven years, the number of requests for user data received by Facebook has increased sixfold, with the company also leading in partially or fully disclosing the most significant portion of requests out of the four corporations surveyed. In terms of the sheer number submitted per 100,000 people, the US is undoubtedly the most active country for Facebook data requests.

“During the past years, the world has witnessed widespread adoption of physical and online surveillance tools,” said Vytautas Kaziukonis, CEO of Surfshark, of the findings. “An increasing number of governments are deploying a range of surveillance technologies under the promise of maintaining order and public safety. However, it is evident that the [means] to track and monitor citizens can be far more overreaching and infringe people’s privacy.”

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