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Photo: Google Transparency Report.

Google has reported a "steady increase" in government requests to hand over data from internet users in the second half of 2012.

The web giant's semi-annual "Transparency Report" showed 584 requests for information by Australian authorities from 711 users in the second half of 2012.

This is up from 523 requests from 841 accounts in the first six months of 2012. The first "Transparency Report" in 2009 showed only 155 requests for user data by Australian authorities.

The most requests came from the United States, with 8438 requests for information about 14,868 users.

India was second with 2431 requests for data about 4106 users, followed by France, where Google received 1693 requests for information about 2063 users. Germany, Britain and Brazil rounded out the top six, Google said. Australia was ranked eighth.

"The steady increase in government requests for our users' data continued in the second half of 2012, as usage of our services continued to grow," said Richard Salgado, Google's head of law enforcement and information security.

"User data requests of all kinds have increased by more than 70 per cent since 2009," he said in a blog post.

"In total, we received 21,389 requests for information about 33,634 users from July through December 2012."

Google said it supplied at least some of the requested data in 68 per cent of cases, down from 76 per cent in late 2010. In Australia, Google full or partially complied with 65 per cent of requests, down from 81 per cent in 2010.

In releasing details of requests in the US, Google said 68 per cent of the requests it received from government entities were through subpoenas, which "are the easiest to get because they typically don't involve judges", according to Salgado.

Another 22 per cent were through search warrants, mostly issued by judges when there is "probable cause" related to a crime.

Google provided at least some data in 90 per cent of the requests in the US in late 2012, compared with 94 per cent two years earlier.

Berin Szoka of the Washington think tank TechFreedom said the report shows "a disturbing growth in government surveillance online".

"On its own, the growth in number of requests for private information like emails should be alarming, especially after the Petraeus case," he said, referring to the disclosure of email exchanges that led to the resignation of CIA director David Petraeus.

"Even more disturbing is that most requests have not been reviewed by a court to ensure that law enforcement has established probable cause to believe a crime has actually been committed, as the [US Constitution's] Fourth Amendment generally requires."

Fairfax Media/AFP