Irish authorities request five times more data from Big Tech than the global average, with Meta and Google receiving the highest number of account requests between 2013 and 2021, new data shows.
The report from security company Surfshark showed Ireland ranked sixth in the world for account requests and fourth in Europe at 395.6 accounts requested per 100,000 people over the nine-year period. That put the country behind France and the UK in fifth and fourth place, with the US topping the list.
In total, Irish authorities requested just under 20,000 accounts over the period, with the number of accounts requested rising 876 per cent over the nine years, and a 62 per cent rise between 2020 and 2021 alone.
Surfshark examined the number of accounts specified in the data requests, and compared the number of partially or fully disclosed requests.
In total, more than 6.6 million accounts were requested by authorities in 177 countries between 2013 to 2021, according to data compiled from the transparency reports published by Apple, Meta, Google and Microsoft. The requests may be made in relation to criminal investigations, civil or administrative cases.
But 2021 saw a sharp rise in the number of accounts requested, at more than 1.6 million, or about a quarter of the total over the nine years.
Meta attracted the most account requests, at 2.8 million, and complied with 72 per cent of them, with Apple attracting 416,000 requests, with an 82 per cent compliance rate.
In Ireland, the overall rate stands at 64.5 per cent, with Google and Meta receiving the highest number of account requests. That was below the global average of 71 per cent.
“Besides requesting data from technology companies, authorities are now exploring more ways to monitor and tackle crime through online services. For instance, the EU is considering a regulation that would require internet service providers to detect, report and remove abuse-related content,” says Gabriele Kaveckyte, privacy counsel at Surfshark. “On one hand, introducing such new measures could help solve serious criminal cases, but civil society organisations expressed their concerns of encouraging surveillance techniques which may later be used, for example, to track down political rivals.”
Overall, the US tops the list, averaging nearly one account request per 100 people for the period between 2013 and 2021, with the top 10 containing five countries from the EU, with Singapore, the UK, Australia and Taiwan making up the remainder of the top 10.