Find Out Where Apple, Facebook, Google, Twitter and Other Tech Giants Are Sending Your Data

Some say user data is the new oil, such are the potential profits to be made from its harvest. Just as pertinently, user data is an important political currency. In fact, it runs much deeper than oil, as we’ve seen in recent electoral scandals that have only hinted at the power of the analysis and exploitation of online data.

Corporations and governments alike are familiar with the concept of unscrupulously adapting their marketing techniques to sway the behavior of online users. We can only imagine what else they might do with this data in the future. In the meantime, data protection laws have come into place to try to keep a check on these powers. The laws require technology companies to be transparent about how they use and share your data with governments.

Apple, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft are among the tech companies that now publish regular transparency reports to highlight connections between privacy, security, personal data, and the policies and actions of governments and corporations. These reports are pretty dense industry documents, so the people at AddictiveTips have created some new visualizations to demonstrate some of what is going on under the hood.

The researchers first generated a list of popular companies such as the top tech giants and social media platforms. They then collected these companies’ transparency reports from 2010-2018. The hardest work was probably to make the statistics in each report compatible with the reports from the other companies. Since there is no standard reporting format, each one looked different.

Here are the visualizations they created and some thoughts about what they reveal.

Where are the tech giants sending your data?

The first visualization is a series of maps that show which companies have okayed user information requests from which countries. For example, Facebook has granted 138,317 such requests, nearly half of which went to the US government. Nearly half of Google’s 70,908 data requests went to the American government.

How much data does your national government request from the tech giants?

Facebook granted Germany nearly 7,000 requests between 2010 – 2018, making Germany the second biggest requester of data. In the same period, Germany received more than 22,000 data dossiers from Apple.

Which tech companies are sharing your data?

The next visualization shows how many data requests the biggest tech companies have received, and how many times they’ve ‘okayed’ the request.

The chart shows that Facebook received the highest number of requests, granting around three-quarters of them. Google was second place, with 106,991 requests. They granted two-thirds of them.

Apple and Snapchat seem far more compliant. These companies received fewer requests than Facebook and Google, but both granted around 80% of them.

Here's a sneak preview of the percentage of government requests that companies granted over the last year. (Apple tops the list, saying yes to 80.13% of them).

An additional visualization shows, at a glance, the percentage of requests granted by various companies. So if you’re an international super-spy and you use AirBnB to book your secret lodgings, you’re relatively safe. Make arrangements over Facebook, however, and when the feds start asking questions then your friendly social media network is likely to comply.

The top 20 countries who want your data

Next up is a chart showing which countries are making the data requests, and which companies they’re asking. The US government seems particularly paranoid, with more than double the number of requests of any other country, mostly made to Facebook and Google.

This study shows where in the world Facebook, Google & 8 other tech giants send YOUR data

It is curious that the top three countries are from three different continents. After the US, Germany made the most requests (59,220), and then India which made 40,116.

A map of the countries that want your data

Next are a series of continental maps (click the arrows to flick through) that reveal at a glance the top players in the international data game.

Watch out for the little territory of Tokelau in Oceania. This non self-governing territory of New Zealand consists of a remote group of atolls in the South Pacific Ocean. Tokelau makes a disproportionately high number of requests – more than Belgium or Pakistan!

The traffic of information requests over the years (2010 – 2018)

International politics is not a static entity. The sway of requests has changed over the years, partly due to the increasing prevalence of digital communications in our lives, and partly due to the changing social and political landscape. Between 2010 and 2017, the total number of requests multiplied nearly 14 times over, to 382,242.

A new study reveals the tech companies that are receiving (and granting) user data requests from governments around the world in a series of maps and charts.

The number of requests went down in 2018. But this is when new data protection laws came into effect. No doubt national governments are still hungry for that data, and will find ways around the legislation – legal or otherwise – to get the information they want about how individuals and groups are using the internet.

The US in comparison to the rest of the world

This final chart shows the share of data requests that the US made each year – never less than around one-third of the total of the whole world’s requests. The enormous amount of data requests made by the US government can’t be attributed solely to paranoia and an entitled sense of ‘world ownership.’

The US in comparison to the rest of the world

Many of the companies involved are themselves American, and the US has a huge internet-using population. Plus, of course, there has been a lot of speculation about just how much Russia was able to meddle in the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

Guess it’s time to invest in that virtual private network software, huh?

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