Security

Google Transparency Report: Government data requests spike

“Government surveillance is on the rise,” Google said after it released its sixth transparency report today. The company releases the bi-annual reports in order to keep governments accountable as Internet companies receive more and more requests to hand over or remove data.

Today’s report represents the first half of 2012, beginning in January and ending in June. Google’s first transparency report in 2009 revealed that governments around the world made 12,539 requests for specific users’ data. That number has steadily increased, and today Google announced it received the most requests for user data it has ever seen: 20,938 requests on 34,614 different user accounts.

On top of that, Google says requests to take down data also spiked. Governments made 1,791 requests to remove 17,475 piece of data.

“The information we disclose is only an isolated sliver showing how governments interact with the Internet, since for the most part we don’t know what requests are made of other technology or telecommunications companies,” said Senior Policy Analyst Dorothy Chou in a blog post. “Our hope is that over time, more data will bolster public debate about how we can best keep the Internet free and open.”

The company doesn’t let the governments sit in anonymity, however. It provides a list of the countries that submit requests and provides a snapshot of the kinds of data that government tries to take down. You can see these on its annotations page. For example, Google detailed that it received removal requests from 10 new countries, including Saudi Arabia, Hungary, Slovakia, and Azerbaijan.

It also doesn’t comply with all of the requests. In the U.S., Google was asked to remove seven YouTube videos “for criticizing local and state government agencies, law enforcement, or public officials.” Google did not take down any of those videos.

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