The User Data Surveillance Report analyzes user data requests that Apple, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft received from 66 countries between 2013 and 2020. The study looks at the numbers of requests for user data made by governmental authorities, compares the amount of fully or partially disclosed requests, and examines their global distribution per population.
Requests for user data
The heatmap shows the total number of user data requests that each country’s government institutions made per 100,000 people through the years 2013 to 2020.
The numbers speak for themselves
EU countries dominate the user data surveillance list
Seven out of the top ten countries with the highest number user data requests per 100,000 people are from the European Union. Singapore, the United States, and Australia complete the list of the most surveilled countries.
|Most surveilled countries||Population (2019)||Number of requests
|Requests per 100k population
|4. United Kingdom||66,834,405||224,689||336.19||Europe|
|5. United States||328,239,523||1,096,910||334.18||Americas|
|14. Israel||9,053,300||11,187||123.57||Middle East|
|19. Turkey||83,429,615||86,039||103.13||Middle East|
|21. New Zealand||4,917,000||4,843||98.50||Oceania|
|22. Hong Kong||7,507,400||7,228||96.28||Asia|
|31. South Korea||51,709,098||35,871||69.37||Asia|
|36. Czech Republic||10,669,709||5,123||48.01||Europe|
|47. Costa Rica||5,047,561||804||15.93||Americas|
|49. Bosnia and Herzegovina||3,301,000||400||12.12||Europe|
|58. South Africa||58,558,270||1,828||3.12||Africa|
|60. United Arab Emirates||9,770,529||122||1.25||Middle East|
|63. Dominican Republic||10,738,960||67||0.62||Americas|
|66. China mainland||1,397,715,000||362||0.03||Asia|
The US authorities are exceptionally interested in what people do online
Between 2013 and 2020, the analyzed companies received almost 40% more user data requests from the US authorities than from all the EU countries combined. The study shows that the US authorities issue nearly double the number of requests for user data per 100,000 people than all the EU countries combined.
requests per 100k.
requests per 100k.
User surveillance is on the rise
The global number of user data requests made per 100,000 people per year by authorities increased three times over the period from 2013 to 2019.
Companies disclose more than every other request for user data
Across all four companies examined in the study, the average percentage of fully or partially disclosed requests for data ranges from 55% to 76% (years 2013-2020)
Company-level case studies
Google has been a leader in the overall number of disclosed requests for user data since 2013. The company has seen a steady growth of user data requests over the years which became notably steep in 2018 when the requests nearly doubled. However, the company's request disclosure average (58%) has been one of the lowest out of all four companies, just behind Apple. In 2019, Google's disclosed user data request totals were surpassed by Facebook.
Number of requests for user data that Facebook receives has grown nearly six fold since 2013. Also, the company leads in partially or fully disclosing the largest percentage of these requests out of all four companies. The United States is by far the most active country in requesting Facebook’s data in terms of sheer numbers and requests per 100,000 people.
Apple receives the lowest number of user data requests out of all four companies by a large margin. Its total number of requests over the entire period from 2013 to 2019 doesn’t even come close to what Microsoft, Facebook, or Google receive in a single year. In terms of the average request disclosure, Apple sits at the lowest end of all four companies at 55%. The US is the most active in requesting user data from the company, constituting the majority of all requests received by Apple.
While the other three companies have experienced steady growth in the number of disclosed requests for user information throughout the period, Microsoft has been the only one on the decline since 2015. In contrast to its competitors, Microsoft is also second to Facebook in average request disclosure (66%). From 2013 to 2019, the US was the country with the highest amount of user data requests in terms of raw figures, while Luxembourg saw the largest number of requests per 100,000 people.
Government surveillance grows
The User Data Surveillance Report shows a clear growing tendency of governmental institutions worldwide requesting people’s data from third-party companies. From 2013 to 2020, 3 million requests were made by 66 countries to Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Apple, out of which nearly 2 million were disclosed. The amount of disclosed requests has grown by 213% from 2013 to 2019.
The User Data Surveillance study uses information from transparency reports published by four major tech companies Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Apple. Amazon was specifically excluded from the study due to the lack and/or inconsistent reporting of user data disclosure practices. The study identifies 66 different countries that have requested user data from the organizations between 2013 and 2020.
The collected data was aggregated and analyzed according to four major categories: User data requests received, Full or partial disclosure of requests, Percentages of disclosed requests, and Requests made per 100,000 people in each country.
- For population data we used: https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.POP.TOTL
- For user data requests we used:
- Facebook: https://transparency.facebook.com/government-data-requests
- Google: https://transparencyreport.google.com/user-data/overview?hl=en
- Microsoft: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/corporate-responsibility/law-enforcement-requests-report
- Apple: https://www.apple.com/legal/transparency/ & https://www.apple.com/legal/zip/transparency/Apple_Transparency_Report.zip