Google has now unveiled a set of tools which, it says, should help deter governments from abusing their position when it comes to data removal requests.
Google has had more than a few run-ins with government, at either side of the spectrum, either coming under attack by governments, usually over privacy, or criticizing governments for their abuses.
"To promote transparency around this flow of information, we’ve built an interactive online Transparency Report with tools that allow people to see where governments are demanding that we remove content and where Google services are being blocked," David Drummond, SVP, Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer at Google announced.
In the Traffic section of the new page, users will be able to check out the flow of visitors to any Google property for periods of time going back years.
This way, Google says, users will know why a particular service is unavailable or at least they'll know they're not the only ones with the problem.
"Like all companies, Google’s services occasionally experience traffic disruptions. Our new traffic tracking tool helps us and others track whether these interruptions are related to mechanical outages or are government-induced," Drummond explained.
Note that the graphs don't show actual traffic numbers, just patterns, increases and decreases in activity. If the activity level goes way down, something is going on.
Google has had a somewhat similar tool for China, indicating whether a particular service is available or not. The Transparency Report tool will replace the one dedicated exclusively to China.
Also on the Transparency Report page, Google shows the number of government requests for data removals or user info from the company.
Google regularly receives this type of request. Many of them may be legitimate, for example requests to take down illegal material, but there are other motives as well.
Google usually conforms to local laws and will take down content or reveal user info on official requests. However, it has fought governments over these matters, most notably in China.