Google Oct. 25 upgraded its Transparency Report tool to include the number of worldwide government data requests and product take-downs.
all of the griping the U.S. government does about Google's size and influence
in the Internet sector, the institution sure likes to tap the search engine
provider on the shoulder a lot for information.
(NASDAQ:GOOG) Oct. 25 revealed that the U.S.
government made a stunning 5,950 requests for data on Google user accounts or
from Jan. 1 to June 30 this year, a 29 percent hike from the
previous six months.
perspective, the U.S. government issued more than three times as many requests
for information, mostly concerning criminal matters, than India, whose
government made 1,739 queries for data. Google said the increase is natural,
as the company adds more Web services and users as time goes on.
data was released as part of a feature upgrade to the search engine provider's
Transparency Report software, an interactive tool Google
launched in April 2010 to fight censorship and inform citizens
requests for data and content removal from the world's governments.
move is also shrewdly calculated to influence reform in the Electronic
Communications Privacy Act, which allows law enforcement to access a person's
Internet activities without the approval of a court.
believe that providing this level of detail highlights the need to modernize
laws like the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which regulates government
access to user information and was written 25 years ago-long before the average
person had ever heard of e-mail," explained Senior
Policy Analyst Dorothy Chou
which revealed that those inquiries spanned 11,057 individual users and their
accounts, said it completely or partially complied with 93 percent of the
requests, most of which were due to investigations of crimes.
company also received 92 requests from Uncle Sam to remove 757 pieces of
content, such as YouTube videos and content from Gmail, Blogger and other
sources, from its search results.
was less than half the number of requests for removal from Brazil's government,
which made 224 queries. Google attributed the high number for content removal
in Brazil relative to other countries to the popularity of Google's orkut
social networking Website.
complied with 63 percent of requests for content removal, compared with 67
percent in Brazil. Most of the "take down" requests, as they are
known in Internet industry parlance, are due to defamation. Others concern
allegations that the content violates laws prohibiting hate speech or
pornography. Google explained why it didn't comply with some requests:
received a request from a local law enforcement agency to remove YouTube videos
of police brutality, which we did not remove," the company explained.
"Separately, we received requests from a different local law enforcement
agency for removal of videos allegedly defaming law enforcement officials. We
did not comply with those requests, which we have categorized in this Report as
other countries have their quirks or anomalies that affect the way Google
incorporates (or doesn't include) data. For example, two requests resulted in
the removal of 1,814 items from AdWords for violating Norwegian marketing laws.
In India, Google received requests from law enforcement agencies to remove
YouTube videos that displayed protests against social leaders or used offensive
language in reference to religious leaders.
unclear how effective the Transparency Report will be beyond helping consumers
distinguish which governments are the greediest for information about criminal
matters, or which countries like to have Google zap information from their
is abundantly clear is that the report is another one of the company's exercises
in Big Data. That's the newfangled euphemism for business intelligence, a
market niche that is growing thanks to the proliferation of data created by
social networks and other information sources that are moving increasingly
for the first time ever, Google is making the raw data from the report
available for export in various machine-readable formats. The idea is that
developers and researchers can revisualize the data in different ways, or
cross-check the data with information from other organizations to reach