Law enforcement agencies across the country are increasingly asking some of the largest tech companies in the world for information found on the devices they make and the software they develop, more so than in previous years, according to a new report. Despite this increase in requests, companies are granting access to digital evidence at the same rate as previous years.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies released the report on Wednesday which found that law enforcement officials at all levels, including local, state, and federal agencies, made over 130,000 requests for access to digital evidence from some six of the largest tech companies in the world just in the last year. An overwhelming majority of those requests, 80 percent, were granted.
The requests were sent to the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Oath, Verizon’s media vertical. Telecommunications companies like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T were also probed to identify users and provide location data and communications content by law enforcement over 500,000 times last year.
“Digital evidence will only grow in importance as more of our lives move online and connected devices proliferate,” the report said. “As the world changes, law enforcement’s capabilities and authorities will need to evolve to keep up, and the relationship between law enforcement and major service providers will become ever more essential to protect the rule of law and public safety, as well as privacy and civil liberties.”
The report notes that the number of requests, which were self-reported by the companies, have “significantly increased over time.” In 2016, law enforcement sent roughly 110,000 requests, according to the report. The year before that, companies only saw around 96,000. The general response rate, and the rate at which the companies deny requests has been “consistent” as well.