Ever wondered just how many times your government has requested Google to remove content or to provide user information? Well, Google’s new Government Request tool does just that. The newly launched service shows exactly how many times, governments from around the world approached Google with these ’special’ requests and how often did Google comply. In the age where government censorship of the web is growing rapidly: from the blocking and filtering of sites, to court orders limiting access to information and legislation forcing companies to self-censor content. Here is a more transparent look around these government requests.
It’s no surprise that Google, like other technology and telecommunications companies, regularly receives demands from government agencies from around the world to remove content from their services. However, data about these activities has never been broadly available and now it is out there for everyone to see. The figures which are currently shown, are based on information gathered during the second half of 2009. Google promises they will be updated every six months.
Brazil is currently leading the board with almost 4000 requests, in both date and removal requests. However, experts suggest Brazil’s stats probably rank so high because of Orkut’s extraordinary dominance over there. Falling behind Brazil, you can find the US in the second place with over than 3500 data requests and 291 removal requests between July and December of last year, some 80% of which Google complied with. Germany, India and South Korea also rank high in removal requests with 188, 142, 64 accordingly. Amongst the top five in data requests you can find UK with 1100, India with 1050 and France with 850 requests.
On the contrary, Canada made ‘only’ 41 requests for data and only 16 removals: 43.8% of removal requests fully or partially complied with (1 Blogger, 2 Groups by court order, 1 Web search, 12 YouTube). Israel had even less: 30 data requests, under 10 removal requests (20% of these complied with). China is also protruding country, in the sense that its details are the only ones not shown. Google said “Chinese officials consider censorship demands as state secrets, so we cannot disclose that information at this time”. Many countries were left out since they had too little requests to begin with.
Google points out, the “vast majority” of these requests are for legitimate legal purposes, one obvious example is tracking child pornographers and additional online crooks such as con-artists, spammers and more. Despite of this, as more and more information “goes online”, the line between what is a legitimate request and what’s practically invasion of privacy, becomes more and more blurry. The Google tool doesn’t drill down any further (behind jurisdiction sums) into the numbers (some requests revolve several sites and there are some repeating requests) and in removal cases how often they were complied with, buy hey, it is a start. Many human rights activists hope this move, will lead governments to think before digging for people’s personal data or attempting to censor their opinions.
To sum it up, Google said it best on their blog “we hope that this is just the first step toward increased transparency about these actions across the technology and communications industries”.
The CEO Game.