The Indian government made 8,23,000 user data requests to Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft between 2013 to 2021, according to Surfshark report. 

The report analyses the number of accounts specified in user data requests by the local authorities and law enforcement agencies. In total, over 6.6 million accounts were requested in 177 countries from 2013 to 2021. Surfshark is a privacy protection toolset developed to help users control their online presence.

India ranked first in South Asia and seventh in all of Asia with 58.7 accounts requested per 100,000 people. Over the 9 years, companies fully or partially disclosed data from around 2.5 million requests. The overall disclosure rate in India is 55.3 per cent. Meta and Google received the highest number of account requests from authorities in India.

The research shows that US and EU authorities made the most data requests. Apple complied with the most user data requests (82 per cent), compared to Meta, Google, and Microsoft  (72 per cent, 71 per cent, and 68 per cent, respectively). 

The requests may be related to criminal investigations, as well as civil or administrative cases when digital evidence is needed.  

India ranks 36th based on the user accounts requested (58.7 accounts per 100,000 people), in comparison to China (65th with 6.7 accounts/100,000) and Nepal (59th with 11 accounts/100,000).

The number of accounts requested increased more than five times from 2013 to 2021, with 2021 seeing a year-over-year increase of around 25 per cent. India shows the same trend, with a 1,476 per cent increase from 2013 to 2021. Requested accounts grew by 55 per cent in 2021 compared to 2020.

Tool to tackle crime

“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,” said Gabriele Kaveckyte, Privacy Counsel at Surfshark. 

“On the one hand, introducing such measures could help solve serious criminal cases, but civil society organisations expressed their concern over encouraging surveillance techniques which may later be used, for example, to track down political rivals,” she added.

The US and EU account for around 60 per cent of all accounts of interest from 2013 to 2021. The US requested more than double the accounts per 100K people than all the EU countries combined. Looking at the top 10, five countries are from the EU, followed by Singapore, the UK, Australia, and Taiwan.