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Monday, 08 August 2022 11:11

Australia ranks 8th globally in government surveillance: study Featured

By Staff Writer

Globally, during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of accounts specified in data requests for government surveillance increased from 0.9 million to 1.3 million - with Australia ranked eighth in government surveillance, according to the latest study by cybersecurity company Surfshark.

The Surfshark study shows Australia ranking 8th based on the online accounts requested by authorities from 2013 to 2020 (257 accounts per 100K people), in comparison to the US (first with 585/100K) and UK (third with 486/100K).

The study also reveals that Australia made 284% more requests than the global average (67/100K), while the latest data also reveals that all countries requested more than 5 million accounts combined during an eight-year period.

According to Surfshark in total, over 5 million accounts were requested in 177 countries from 2013 to 2020, with a steady increase in the latest years.

The research shows that the US and EU authorities request the most data, and Apple complied with the most user data requests (80%) compared to Microsoft, Facebook, and Google (from 69% to 72%).

Surfshark notes that its research analyses user data requests that Apple, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft received from 177 countries and local authorities between 2013 and 2020 - and the cases of requests are related to government surveillance and law enforcement when digital evidence is needed in legal processes.

On global trends Surfshark ssys the study show that government surveillance is growing, and the number of accounts requested globally increased more than four times from 2013 to 2020, with 2020 seeing the most significant year-over-year increase of almost 40%. - with Australia showing the same trend, with a 136% (2-fold) increase from 2013 to 2020 - and in raw numbers, this is over 65580 accounts during these 8 years, while requested accounts grew by 36% in 2020 compared to 2019.

"The massive growth of online crime in 2020 went hand-in-hand with the increase in data requests that Big Tech companies received," says Surfshark lead reasearcher Agneska Sablovskaja.

"Globally, the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic saw a staggering year-over-year growth of accounts requested for government surveillance from 0.9 million to 1.3 million. This could be attributed to everything moving online, including crime."

The study notes that US and EU authorities request the most data, with the US and Europe accounting for nearly two-thirds of all accounts of interest from 2013 to 2020.

However, the US requested more than double the accounts per 100K people than all the EU countries combined - and looking at the top 10, five countries are from the EU, and the UK, Australia, Singapore, and Taiwan comprise the rest.

The study shows the disclosure rate has been steadily growing at approximately 1.5% year on year – and Google and Microsoft are the ones that have received the highest percentage of disclosed accounts to the authorities in Australia, 76% and 75% respectively.

Globally, from 2013 to 2020, the number of disclosed requests grew by almost 280%. Apple has been leading in disclosure rates since 2016, raising them from 75% in 2016 to 85% in 2020. The remaining companies, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft, average at 70%. More than half (58%) of all requests that Apple complied with came from the US.

The study notes that Google’s disclosure rate has been increasing by nearly 4% every year since 2016, and it peaked at 76% in 2020, placing Google 2nd behind Apple. Facebook’s disclosure rate has been slowly decreasing, although it remains significantly higher than in 2013 (73% vs. 63%) – and even though Microsoft did have the highest disclosure rate between 2013-2015, it has the lowest percentage of complied requests out of all companies since 2018.

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