Google says governments are making more requests for users’ data

Google says governments around the world, including the U.S., are continually making more requests for its users’ data and more requests to take down content.

Alongside a Transparency Report it releases twice a year, Google disclosed the information in a blog post, detailing the requests governments everywhere are making, which it classified as censorship.

“We noticed that government agencies from different countries would sometimes ask us to remove political content that our users had posted on our services,” said Dorothy Chou, Google senior policy analyst, in the blog post. “We hoped this was an aberration. But now we know it’s not.”


Since the company began releasing its transparency data about two years ago, these types of requests have continued to go up, Chou said.

In the U.S. alone the trend pointed out by Google stands. In the latter half of 2011, U.S. government agencies asked Google to hand over user data in 6,321 different requests, with the search company complying in some way on 93% of them.

That number was up from 4,601 requests during the same period in 2010, with a Google compliance of 94%, and up from 3,580 requests in the last half of 2009 (Google doesn’t include a percentage on how often it complied during that period).

With content removal, the U.S. requested Google take down 6,192 items in the second half of 2011 with Google complying on 42% of them. That too was up from 2010, when requests for 1,421 items were made, although Google complied on 87% of them. The same figures aren’t provided for 2009.

“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,” Chou said.

To see a map of each country’s requests along with graphs detailing the data Google provided, check out its report and explore.


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