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Government
surveillance report

Surfshark research hub analyzed user data requests that Apple, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft received from 177 countries between 2013 and 2020. As a data request can cover multiple accounts, the research looks into the number of accounts specified in these requests, examines their global distribution per population, and compares the number of partially or fully disclosed requests.

Government surveillance is growing. The number of accounts requested increased more than four times from 2013 to 2020, with 2020 seeing the most significant year-over-year increase of almost 40%.

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The US and EU authorities request data the most. Both regions account for nearly two-thirds of all accounts of interest from 2013 to 2020. To compare, the US requested more than double the accounts per 100K people than all the EU countries combined.

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Companies disclose user data more than ever. From 2013 to 2020, the number of disclosed requests grew by almost 280%. On average, companies comply with 7 out of 10 demands to produce account data.

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Government surveillance is on the rise

Total number of accounts requested (2013-2020)

  • Apple
  • Google
  • Facebook
  • Microsoft
Apple
Google
Facebook
Microsoft
2013
Apple
5,259
Google
85,148
Facebook
77,774
Microsoft
125,215
2014
Apple
9,317
Google
99,202
Facebook
99,715
Microsoft
111,559
2015
Apple
17,322
Google
150,218
Facebook
123,409
Microsoft
127,364
2016
Apple
23,000
Google
150,787
Facebook
180,613
Microsoft
105,248
2017
Apple
55,180
Google
170,644
Facebook
242,790
Microsoft
85,291
2018
Apple
64,045
Google
261,892
Facebook
322,923
Microsoft
89,118
2019
Apple
81,758
Google
340,762
Facebook
427,858
Microsoft
86,699
2020
Apple
84,604
Google
496,633
Facebook
610,677
Microsoft
96,909

2020 saw the most significant year-over-year increase in accounts requested so far - from 0.9M to 1.3M. This is likely related to the rise in online crime during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the period of 2013-2020, Facebook hosted the most accounts that interested authorities among all four companies (2M) - or two out of five accounts requested during this time (5M). On the other end of the scale, Apple covered the fewest requested accounts - 340K - or just 7% of total accounts of interest to authorities.

Requests for account data

The heatmap shows the total number of accounts specified in user data requests (per 100,000 people) that each country’s government institution submitted from 2013 to 2020.

Countries with a population of less than 1M were not included.

Requests for account data Requests for account data
5,008,933 The number of accounts in user data requests from 177 countries to Apple, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft from 2013 to 2020.
1,288,823 The number of accounts in user data requests in 2020 alone. This amounts to a quarter of the eight-year total.
1,936,748 The number of accounts affected by user data requests by the US authorities from 2013 to 2020. More than a third (39%) of total account requests came from the US authorities.

The US and the EU dominate the user data surveillance list

The US tops the list with nearly 2M accounts in user data requests since 2013. Looking at the top 10, five countries are from the EU. The UK, Australia, Singapore, and Taiwan comprise the rest.

Countries with a population of less than 1M were not included in the ranking.

Most surveilled countries Population
(2020)
Accounts specified in requests
(2013-2020)
Accounts per 100k population
(2013-2020)
Region
1. U.S.331,002,6511,936,748585.12North America
2. Germany83,783,942409,850489.17Europe
3. U.K.67,886,011330,068486.21Europe
4. Singapore5,850,34226,419451.58Asia
5. France65,273,511281,352431.04Europe
6. Ireland4,937,78616,819340.62Europe
7. Portugal10,196,70931,031304.32Europe
8. Australia25,499,88465,582257.19Oceania
9. Belgium11,589,62328,774248.27Europe
10. Taiwan23,816,77558,860247.14Asia
11. Norway5,421,24110,444192.65Europe
12. Israel8,655,53515,835182.95Asia
13. Sweden10,099,26518,057178.80Europe
14. Brazil212,559,417378,450178.04South America
15. Poland37,846,61163,882168.79Europe
16. Italy60,461,826100,400166.06Europe
17. Switzerland8,654,62214,239164.52Europe
18. South Korea51,269,18580,361156.74Asia
19. Netherlands17,134,87226,739156.05Europe
20. Estonia1,326,5352,063155.52Europe
21. Lithuania2,722,2893,842141.13Europe
22. Spain46,754,77863,294135.37Europe
23. Turkey84,339,067106,455126.22Asia
24. Hong Kong7,496,9819,356124.80Asia
25. Greece10,423,05411,439109.75Europe
26. Argentina45,195,77447,587105.29South America
27. New Zealand4,822,2334,924102.11Oceania
28. Austria9,006,3988,14690.45Europe
29. Finland5,540,7204,84487.43Europe
30. Chile19,116,20116,62186.95South America
31. Canada37,742,15431,44683.32North America
32. Hungary9,660,3517,76280.35Europe
33. Czechia10,708,9817,93074.05Europe
34. Denmark5,792,2023,98868.85Europe
35. North Macedonia2,083,3741,05250.50Europe
36. Slovenia2,078,93886641.66Europe
37. Croatia4,105,2671,58638.63Europe
38. India1,380,004,385531,63338.52Asia
39. Mexico128,932,75344,21134.29North America
40. Serbia8,737,3712,67930.66Europe
41. Latvia1,886,19855429.37Europe
42. Cyprus1,207,35932326.75Asia
43. Romania19,237,6914,89025.42Europe
44. Costa Rica5,094,1181,25124.56North America
45. Bosnia and Herzegovina3,280,81977923.74Europe
46. Kosovo1,775,00040622.87Europe
47. Dominican Republic10,847,9102,47022.77North America
48. Colombia50,882,89110,80621.24South America
49. Slovakia5,459,6421,11820.48Europe
50. Jordan10,203,1341,94419.05Asia
51. Guatemala17,915,5682,95216.48North America
52. Ecuador17,643,0542,77115.71South America
53. Uruguay3,473,73047313.62South America
54. Albania2,877,79738213.27Europe
55. Japan126,476,46116,64113.16Asia
56. Pakistan220,892,34021,4069.69Asia
57. Armenia2,963,2432839.55Asia
58. Panama4,314,7674119.53North America
59. Georgia3,989,1673147.87Asia
60. Nepal29,136,8082,2897.86Asia
61. Moldova4,033,9632887.14Europe
62. Bulgaria6,948,4454927.08Europe
63. Peru32,971,8542,3097.00South America
64. China1,439,323,77694,8786.59Asia
65. Russia145,934,4628,4685.80Europe
66. El Salvador6,486,2052934.52North America
67. Mongolia3,278,2901404.27Asia
68. Kuwait4,270,5711663.89Asia
69. Paraguay7,132,5382623.67South America
70. Sri Lanka21,413,2496302.94Asia
71. Morocco36,910,5601,0722.90Africa
72. Malaysia32,365,9998542.64Asia
73. Ukraine43,733,7621,1232.57Europe
74. U.A.E.9,890,4022532.56Asia
75. Qatar2,881,053682.36Asia
76. Belarus9,449,3231521.61Europe
77. Lebanon6,825,4451071.57Asia
78. Thailand69,799,9781,0251.47Asia
79. Bangladesh164,689,3832,1481.30Asia
80. Palestine5,101,414631.23Asia
81. Eswatini1,160,164141.21Africa
82. Bahrain1,701,575201.18Asia
83. Botswana2,351,627261.11Africa
84. Trinidad and Tobago1,399,488130.93North America
85. Oman5,106,626460.90Asia
86. Tunisia11,818,619780.66Africa
87. Venezuela28,435,9401840.65South America
88. Honduras9,904,607580.59North America
89. Iraq40,222,4932150.53Asia
90. Ivory Coast26,378,2741370.52Africa
91. Philippines109,581,0785000.46Asia
92. Sudan43,849,2601710.39Africa
93. South Africa59,308,6902290.39Africa
94. Azerbaijan10,139,177340.34Asia
95. Puerto Rico2,860,85390.31North America
96. Senegal16,743,927510.30Africa
97. Kenya53,771,2961560.29Africa
98. Indonesia273,523,6156170.23Asia
99. Madagascar27,691,018620.22Africa
100. Kazakhstan18,776,707400.21Asia
101. Nigeria206,139,5893690.18Africa
102. Malawi19,129,952340.18Africa
103. Jamaica2,961,16750.17North America
104. Mauritius1,271,76820.16Africa
105. Timor-Leste1,318,44520.15Asia
106. Saudi Arabia34,813,871460.13Asia
107. Cambodia16,718,965160.10Asia
108. Burkina Faso20,903,273200.10Africa
109. Vietnam97,338,579870.09Asia
110. Egypt102,334,404830.08Africa
111. Ghana31,072,940250.08Africa
112. Namibia2,540,90520.08Africa
113. Benin12,123,20080.07Africa
114. Togo8,278,72450.06Africa
115. Bolivia11,673,02160.05South America
116. Lesotho2,142,24910.05Africa
117. Rwanda12,952,21850.04Africa
118. Zambia18,383,95570.04Africa
119. Uzbekistan33,469,203110.03Asia
120. Nicaragua6,624,55420.03North America
121. Iran83,992,949250.03Asia
122. Cameroon26,545,86370.03Africa
123. Uganda45,741,007120.03Africa
124. Afghanistan38,928,34690.02Asia
125. Congo DR89,561,403180.02Africa
126. Liberia5,057,68110.02Africa
127. Mozambique31,255,43550.02Africa
128. Guinea13,132,79520.02Africa
129. Mali20,250,83330.01Africa
130. Myanmar54,409,80080.01Asia
131. Sierra Leone7,976,98310.01Africa
132. Algeria43,851,04450.01Africa
133. Tajikistan9,537,64510.01Asia
134. Chad16,425,86410.01Africa
135. Angola32,866,27220.01Africa
136. Tanzania59,734,21830.01Africa
137. Niger24,206,64410.00Africa

Companies submit user data for more than two-thirds of requests

Percentage of partially or fully disclosed user data requests (accumulated yearly average)
  • Apple (80.02%)
  • Facebook (71.71%)
  • Microsoft (69.71%)
  • Google (69.03%)
Percentage of fully or partially disclosed user data requests

On average, companies complied with 70% of user data requests between 2013 and 2020. Compliance (partial or full disclosure) with user data requests ranged from 66% to 73%.

Apple is the only outlier, submitting user data for 80% of requests.

Company-level disclosure rate

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Apple

Apple has led in disclosure rate since 2016, raising it from 75% in 2016 to 85% in 2020. The remaining three companies average at 70%. More than half (58%) of all requests that Apple complied with had come from the US.

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Facebook

Facebook’s disclosure rate was rising until it peaked at nearly 75% in 2017. It has been slowly decreasing, although it remains significantly higher than in 2013 (73% vs. 63%).

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Google

Google’s disclosure rate had been on the decrease until 2016 when it started climbing by nearly 4% every year. It peaked at 76% in 2020, placing Google 2nd behind Apple.

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Microsoft

Even though Microsoft’s disclosure rate has been decreasing throughout the whole eight-year period, it led the chart until 2016. Since 2018, it has been complying with the least number of requests out of all four companies.

Methodology

The Government Surveillance Report uses information from transparency reports published by four major tech companies - Apple, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft. Amazon was specifically excluded due to the lack of and/or inconsistency in reporting user data disclosure practices. The study identifies 177 different countries that have requested user data from these companies between 2013 and 2020. User data requests include two types of metrics - the number of requests a company received from authorities and the number of accounts specified within them.

The collected data was aggregated and analyzed according to five major categories: user data requests received, partially or fully disclosed requests, percentages of disclosed requests, accounts specified within these requests, and requested accounts per 100,000 people in each country. Countries with less than 1M people were excluded from the ranking as these countries often are the outliers in global distribution per population metrics due to small population numbers. Excluding countries and territories with fewer than 1M people in population does not significantly impact the global statistics as such countries do not account for even 1% of the global population.

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Data sources:

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