The US Government Made More Requests For Personal User Data Than Any Other Country In The World

A study conducted by TechRobot reveals that the USA asked for, and received, more user data than any other country across the year 2020.

Privacy is a relic of the ancient past. At least, most people would have you believe this. Since the advent of the internet, the exposure of organization such as the NSA, and as our lives move further and further towards the digital plane, security seems to be less and less relevant. Cybersecurity threats, phishing attacks, and identity theft is constantly being reported by journalists and headlines. The viewpoint this author offers in exchange, however, is that online security in the internet era is very much achievable. Constant strides are being made towards it in the form of two-factor authorization on our social media accounts, the involvement of bank verification for online transactions, and proxies guarding our online identity. Statements such as “the internet isn’t safe” fail to realize that the only real step we need to take towards online security is holding the echelons of power that exploit such safety responsible.

That, admittedly, is a difficult task to achieve when the threat happens to be entire governments. The USA is a prime offender of risking user data and privacy, a fact that this article will go on to further establish. However, they’re not the only offenders. As we move on towards privatizing online security, mandates will eventually need to be set in order to ensure that the very companies that keep our online identity safe don’t sell us out. After all, how do governments get their hands on our data?

The methodology for this study was as such: TechRobot analyzed transparency reports provided by Facebook, Apple, and Twitter for the first quarter of both 2019 and 2020. These records are publicly available, and can be accessed via each of the companies’ respective websites. Data was compiled for the top most active countries in the world, measuring the number of requests made, and the number of approvals.

The US government leads the number of data requests for Q1 2020, displaying a whopping 21% increase in requests when compared to Q1 2019. Alarmingly, 76% of all requests were approved as well. However, there has been a 5% decline in approval, when compared to Q1 2019. Maybe companies are just playing things a bit closer to the chest now. At any rate, the USA dwarfs any other country on the list, just based on the sheer number of requests made. Germany, the second country in line, made 24,775 requests in 2021. Which, while being a significant amount in and of itself, is approximately a quarter of what the US demands of its companies.

The worrying part is not just that governments can have such easy access to our social lives, and our online personas. It’s the fact that social media sites are expected to provide such documentation with relative ease. While sites are definitely getting better at rejecting requests (only Germany, South Korea, and France saw no decline in report acceptances across 2019-2020), it still isn’t enough. If warrants can’t be issued without reasonable cause provided to a supervising authority, and searches can’t be made with the third party being made aware of the process, then online security is not a faraway dream. It is tangible, and can be achieved if we only start holding the right people accountable.
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