How Big Tech companies treat user data has been controversial for so long. Meta, Apple, Google and Microsoft are often accused of collecting and selling the personal data of their users. Though, where exactly this data goes and how much of it is given over to companies and governments can still be unclear.
However, a new study from Surfshark reveals requests for such personal user data from global governments are on the rise. The study focused on the time period from 2013 to 2021, with 2020 having the most prominent year-over-year increase of 38%, followed by a 25% increase in 2021.
Meta, Microsoft, Apple and Google were the four Big Tech firms taken into account during the survey, with Meta having the most accounts of interest from authorities. Two out of five accounts hosted by Meta were requested (6.6M) over the study period.
Apple, on the other hand, had the fewest with just 416K requested accounts from global authorities.
The study shows that 60% of requests came from authorities in the United States and Europe. However, the U.S. requested more than double the accounts per 100,000 users than all countries in the EU combined.
Following the U.S. in the top spots is Germany, Singapore, the United Kingdom and France.
According to the report, data requests are often related to criminal investigations, along with civil or administrative cases in which digital data is necessary.
Gabriele Kaveckyte, a member of the privacy counsel at Surfshark, said along with data requests authorities are also looking into ways to monitor and tackle crime via online services.
“On one hand, introducing such new measures could help solve serious criminal cases, but civil society organizations expressed their concerns of encouraging surveillance techniques…”
On the part of the tech companies the rate of disclosure of user data has increased by nearly 71%. Apple leads the pack when it comes to disclosing such information with a disclosure rate of 86% in 2021, and an average disclosure rate of 82% across the study time period.
The decentralization and Web3 tools have often been touted as solutions to overcoming the Big Tech monopoly on user information. Some have even gone so far as to say Web2 platforms such as Facebook and Twitter will be “obsolete” thanks to blockchain.
In February, the decentralized version of Twitter, called Damus, officially launched in app stores in an effort to be a “social network you control.”
Even Big Tech companies themselves have begun to break into the Web3 space, with Meta unsuccessfully introducing NFTs on Instagram and Facebook.