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Requests for info, gag orders and takedowns fired at GitHub users hit an all-time high last year

More stuff disclosed, but code host could rarely tell targets

Microsoft-owned code repo GitHub has received twice as many requests for user information in 2018 as the prior year, noting a disproportionate rise in accompanying gag orders.

As GitHub said in its 2018 Transparency Report, the total number of requests was small as things go – a mere 112 – and apart from two that hint at someone lawyering up, they covered a relatively minor number of accounts.

The organisation has processed 78 of the requests it received and within that disclosed information on 66. Two of those requests covered a surprising 3,673 user accounts (which looks to El Reg like someone objecting to the same content in a lot of places).

The remaining 64 so far processed involved just 91 user accounts.

The breakdown of request types is as follows:

  • 68 criminal subpoenas and 13 civil subpoenas, for a total of 81
  • 22 court orders
  • Seven search warrants
  • Two cross-border data requests

The trend GitHub identified as most concerning was the rise in some kind of gag order that accompanied the requests.

"It’s probably not surprising that we’re receiving more user information requests as the GitHub community grows. But what does stand out is how often those information requests are accompanied by gag orders. That’s not something that we’d expect to increase faster than the number of requests we receive.

"To put this in perspective, of the 66 times we produced information in 2018, we were only able to notify users six times because gag orders accompanied the other 60 requests. That means we were only permitted to notify users about information disclosure 9.1 percent of the time in 2018, compared to 18.6 percent in 2017, 20.6 percent in 2016, 41.7 percent in 2015, and 60 percent in 2014," the report stated.

In 2014 there were just 10 disclosures in total, compared to the 66 last year. GitHub broke the change down.

Russia sent nine takedown requests to GitHub in 2018 and in response, "all or part of three repositories, five gits, and one GitHub Pages site" – a total of nine projects – were blocked in the country.

DMCA notices were also on the rise, and most were successful. In response to DMCA-based demands, GitHub removed 11,971 projects, and only 99 of those were reinstated.

"Most of the time when we receive a complete takedown notice, the content comes down and stays down," the report noted.

Although nearly 12,000 sounds like a lot of DMCA requests, unlike gag orders GitHub said copyright issues are rising in line with its growth. ®

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