Google Warns Of Growing Government Surveillance
November 14, 2012

Google Releases New Government Transparency Report

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Requests by governments around the world to remove content from Google´s search results and other services grew 71 percent in the first half of 2012, while requests for user data grew 15 percent from the previous six months, according to Google´s sixth semi-annual Government Transparency Report released on Tuesday.

"This is the sixth time we've released this data, and one trend has become clear: Government surveillance is on the rise," wrote Google´s senior policy analyst Dorothy Chou in a blog post on Tuesday.

The report describes the ways in which governments have worked to “hamper the free flow of information on the Web” from January to June 2012, and breaks out government requests for information and government requests to have content removed from Google's network.

During the first six months of this year, Google received 20,938 requests to disclose information about 34,614 accounts. By comparison, governments made 18,257 requests during the previous six months, and 12,539 requests between July and December of 2009, the first time period for which Google released their transparency report.

The U.S. had the highest number of user data requests, at 7,696 involving 16,281 accounts — a 26 percent increase from the prior period. Of those requests, Google complied fully or partially with 90 percent.

Content removal requests were relatively unchanged between 2009 and 2011, but "spiked" in 2012 from 1,048 in the second half of 2011 to 1,791 in the first half of 2012, Google said.

Most of the content removal requests from the U.S. government involved Google's Web Search and content on Google Groups.

The Internet search giant said it received five requests to remove seven YouTube videos critical of public officials, but declined them all. The company said it had received a court order to remove 1,754 posts from Google Groups involving a case of continuous defamation against a man and his family. Of those, 1,664 posts were removed.

There were also three court orders involving 641 search results that linked to purportedly defamatory websites. Google removed 233 of those search results.

The company also removed 156 search results for trademark violations.

Google noted that its data is "only an isolated sliver" of the actual number of Internet-related requests made by governments, "since for the most part we don't know what requests are made of other technology or telecommunications companies."

Chou commended other tech firms for disclosing information about government requests for content removal or for users´ private data.

“We´re heartened that in the past year, more companies like Dropbox, LinkedIn, and Twitter have begun to share their statistics too. Our hope is that over time, more data will bolster public debate about how we can best keep the Internet free and open.”