Google: US spying tripled in three years

The number of U.S. government requests for Google user data have more than tripled over the past three years, the company said Thursday.

In the first half of 2013, there were 10,918 U.S. requests for data on 21,683 users.

In the second half of 2009, when Google first started compiling the data, there were only 3,580 requests in the United States.

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The statistics cover subpoenas, which give the authorities access to IP addresses, names and other account information, as well as search warrants, which police can use to seize emails, photos and other content.  

The United States requested far more information than any other government, according to the company. Worldwide, Google received 25,879 government requests covering 42,500 accounts in the first half of 2013. 

Google complied with 63 percent of the total worldwide requests and 83 percent of the U.S. requests.

The U.S. statistics cover law enforcement investigations but not the National Security Agency's controversial surveillance programs.

"This comes as usage of our services continues to grow, but also as more governments have made requests than ever before," Richard Salgado, a legal director for Google, wrote in a blog post. "And these numbers only include the requests we’re allowed to publish."

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which oversees NSA spying, imposes gag orders on companies like Google to prevent them from disclosing how often they receive national security requests for data.

Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Yahoo are suing for the right to publish more statistics about U.S. spying on their users. They argue they have a First Amendment right to discuss the information.

The companies have also endorsed legislation from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), which would curb the NSA's power and tighten oversight.

"We believe it’s your right to know what kinds of requests and how many each government is making of us and other companies," Salgado wrote.