Governments Just Keep Asking Google for More Data on You

And Google is forced to comply more often than not, Big Brother only needs to ask nicely

By on June 18th, 2012 12:30 GMT

Google has updated the data in its Transparency Report regarding government requests for either content removal or data on users. Google, like any other company has to comply with legal requests for information or for takedowns.

The company receives tens of thousands of these requests from around the world and, while it doesn't comply with all of them, most of them are approved.

What's more, Google is seeing that the number of requests is increasing significantly in time. It has now published data from July 2011 to December 2011. It started doing this for the same period in 2009.

In the US alone, it received 6,321 requests for information on users in the second half of the year. Google complied with 93 percent of them fully or partially. The company only got some 5,950 requests in the first half of 2011.

The latest numbers show a 37 percent increase in requests from the 4,601 Google got in the second half of 2010 and a significant 76 percent increase from the 3,580 requests it saw in the second half of 2009. The same trends are visible all over the world.

"When we started releasing this data in 2010, we also added annotations with some of the more interesting stories behind the numbers. We noticed that government agencies from different countries would sometimes ask us to remove political content that our users had posted on our services. We hoped this was an aberration. But now we know it’s not," Google explained.

"This is the fifth data set that we’ve released. And just like every other time before, we’ve been asked to take down political speech. It’s alarming not only because free expression is at risk, but because some of these requests come from countries you might not suspect—Western democracies not typically associated with censorship," it said.

Google exemplified this with a request for the removal of 270 search results pointing to stuff the Spanish regulators didn't find appropriate. This is linked to the so-called "right to be forgotten" type of legislation that is gaining steam in Europe. Google did not comply with the request and neither it did with a similarly flimsy one from Poland.

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Requests to Google for user data are all over the map
   Requests to Google for user data are all over the map