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August 30, 2017

Gov’t data requests almost double for tech firms – big brother really is watching

UK and US governments have almost doubled their requests to obtain data from tech companies.

By Ellie Burns

Businesses are facing new pressures to deal with the exponential rise in government requests for data, with the Snooper’s Charter allowing for even more data access and the impending GDPR adding to the regulatory burden.

Worrying analysis by Deloitte has found that UK and US governments have almost doubled their requests to obtain data from technology, media and telecoms companies over the past three years. Looking at 26 companies, the analysis found that the number of data requests increased from 354,970 to 704,678 between 2013 and 2016.

The surge in requests highlights the growing regulatory burden faced by UK and US companies, with UK businesses set for that burden to grow even heavier with the impending GDPR and EU privacy rules.driverless

“This new research pulls back the curtain on the sheer volume of data handed over to the UK and US authorities by 26 of the biggest tech and communications companies, including Google, Facebook and LinkedIn, that profit from harvesting our personal information,” said Simon Migliano, Head of Research at

“The most disturbing aspect is how data demands nearly doubled over the three years before the Investigatory Powers Act (IPA) came into force in the UK to grant the authorities unprecedented powers to access communications data, including browsing history.”

Although data requested by government is a vital tool in national security and law enforcement, the amount of time, cost and risk which businesses face in dealing with such requests is growing exponentially in line with the surge in data demands. This, Mr Migliano says, is being leveraged by governments who are using volume to their advantage.

“Now the floodgates are open, the volume of such data requests is set to skyrocket yet further in the UK. Indeed the authorities benefit from a high-volume approach, as it quickly becomes prohibitively expensive for companies swamped with demands to properly verify the validity of each one. Their ability to continue to resist incursions into their users’ privacy is very much at risk.”

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Privacy sits at the heart of GDPR, yet the Snooper’s Charter has given the government unprecedented access to citizens’ data – it seems that business is being shackled with compliance, while the UK government is having its cake and eating it too.

“In a chilling reminder to the British public to take active steps to protect their privacy, the research reveals that state snoopers had full access to photo, video, message and document content in over 12% of data requests, a number set to spike now the Snoopers’ Charter makes it much easier to do so,” Mr Migliano said.

“Worse, the Snoopers’ Charter allows the authorities to combine and cross-reference this huge trove of personal information with bulk personal datasets, essentially massive databases that contain every single UK resident, to build up highly detailed individual profiles. Big Brother really is watching.”

Businesses must be aware of the cost of full compliance – that includes data requests. The costs incurred by data requests are only set to increase, meaning more resources will have to be allocated in dealing with the data deluge. On the other side, citizens must understand that their data is not private, with the only way to fight big brother being to reconsider what and how much data you give companies.

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