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GitHub Transparency Report: Keep up with legalities

© Shutterstock / Kabakou  

Last week, GitHub released its annual transparency report for the year 2017. I know that keeping up with legalities can be really boring and time-consuming, so I will do my best to give you the highlights of the report.

The GitHub Transparency Report is an awesome commitment GitHub has made to its users to keep them informed on some of the most important legal aspects of running the GitHub community. Similarly to the reports of previous years, GitHub discloses the following stats in this year’s report:

  • Requests to disclose user information
    • Subpoenas
    • Court orders
    • Search warrants
    • National security orders
  • Requests to remove or block user content
    • Government takedown requests
    • Takedown notices for alleged copyright infringement under the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)

What’s more, this year we have some new topics in the transparency report:

  • Cross-border data requests
  • Accounts and projects affected by government takedown requests

Let’s have a look at the most important information found in this report.

SEE ALSO: Developing in the cloud in the age of GDPR

Legal requests for user information

This year received a total of 51 legal requests to disclose user information, an increase since last year when the total number of requests was 34. As seen in the figure below, compared to 2016, we can observe a significant increase in the civil litigation requests and criminal search warrants. In 43 of the 51 cases, GitHub provided the user data requested.

Non-disclosure orders

Notably, it is not the total number of the legal requests for user information that I find most interesting but rather the cases in which the legal requests are accompanied by a court order that prevents GitHub from notifying users that their data has been disclosed, referred to as the gag orders. When compared to 2016, the increase in gag orders is not that surprising but when compared to 2015, the increase is enormous; from 4 requests in 2015 to 35 in 2017!


Requests to remove or block user content are divided into government takedowns and Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).  During 2017, GitHub received 8 total requests from governments while the number of DMCA takedowns reached 1,380! As seen in the figure below, the DMCA takedowns have increased significantly in the past couple of years.

SEE ALSO: GDPR — Designing privacy and data protection

Cross-border data requests

In light of the recent European legislation, cross-border requests for data disclosure reported by GitHub can be of significant interest. In 2017, GitHub reported only two cross-border data requests but the report does note that “legislative developments could lead to increased cross-border data requests and a need for more oversight”.

*cough* GDPR *cough*

Given the politically sensitive nature of some of the topics included in the GitHub report, I do not intend to present them in this article since I do not wish to provoke any debates here! I do encourage you, though, to have a look at the full report and draw your own conclusions.

Eirini-Eleni Papadopoulou
Eirini-Eleni Papadopoulou was the editor for Coming from an academic background in East Asian Studies, she decided that it was time to go back to her high-school hobby that was computer science and she dived into the development world. Other hobbies include esports and League of Legends, although she never managed to escape elo hell (yet), and she is a guest writer/analyst for competitive LoL at TGH.

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