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User data requested on 10 Irish Google accounts

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REUTERS

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Google has revealed that Irish authorities made just 10 requests relating to Gmail, Google Docs, YouTube or other Google accounts held by Irish citizens between January and July of this year.

The figures, released in Google's latest Transparency Report, show that Irish authorities request user data far less often than other European security and civil authorities.

Per head of population, other EU countries made more requests, according to Google. The UK government made 1,535 requests for citizens' information from Google. Countries closer in population to Ireland also made more requests, with Denmark logging 52 user data requests, Belgium 213 user data requests and Portugal 338 such requests.

Google said that the percentage of requests "where some data was produced" was just 30pc in Ireland.

Neither the state nor web companies provide a public breakdown of what exactly the requests relate to, but spokesmen for the companies involve suggest that these are generally associated with criminal investigations. In some cases, they can also relate to non-criminal issues, such as missing persons requests.

Web, email and social media companies are facing increasing requests from Irish authorities for data that can be used for a number of reasons.

Last year, Irish authorities made 98 requests of Microsoft relating to 150 different user accounts, including Hotmail and Skype. The company says that it complied with 57pc of the requests, meaning that it handed over at least partial information relating to the requests. This may have included details about the account itself rather than the content of, say, a Hotmail message or a Skype message.

In the same period, Facebook received 69 requests here relating to 76 Facebook accounts with a 67pc compliance rate, using the same caveats relating to ‘compliance’. Yahoo received 47 requests relating to 47 accounts with over half of the requests bearing some information.

However, the state appeared to have little interest in inquiring after Irish citizens’ Twitter or Linkedin accounts. Twitter reported “under 10” requests here last year, while Linkedin said that Irish authorities asked for details just once during the same time period. The professional networking service declined the request.

Much of this information has begun to be released after telecoms and web companies reacted to revelations about how their networks were being used by state authorities to spy on their customers. It is a year since US National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden unveiled the extent to which US and UK authorities hack into mainstream phone, internet and messaging services to spy on everyday communications.

Online Editors