U.S., Brazil Lead World in Data, Content Removal Requests from Google

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-04-21

Governments for the United States and Brazil combined to issue more than 7,000 data requests and 400 requests for content removal from Google from July 2009 to December 2009, according to a new tool from the search engine.

Google issued its Government Requests tool April 20 to provide transparency around the requests for data and content removal from governments in countries all over the world. The tool presents data overlaid on Google Maps technology, breaking down requests by country and notes the content removal requests with which Google does not comply.  

Brazil led the way with 3.663 data requests and 291 requests for content removal. The United States issued 3,580 data requests and 123 for content removal.

The U.K. and India each sported more than 1,000 requests for data during the July to December timeframe, while Germany and India made 188 and 142 demands for content removal, respectively.  

The company plans to update the data in six-month increments and will eventually have  more detail about its compliance with user data requests, which include countries asking for the removal of child pornography and those from law enforcement agencies for private user data to assist in criminal investigations, said David Drummond, senior vice president of corporate development and chief legal officer, in a blog post.

Google did not include statistics for countries where it received fewer than 30 requests for user data in criminal cases during the six-month period. The company said revealing the statistics in countries where the number of requests is low could place "important investigations at risk and interfere with public safety efforts of the authorities."

Google also did not list specific numbers for those countries in which it received fewer than 10 requests for content removal.   

In justifying the creation of the tool, Drummond noted the right to free opinion and expression from Article 19 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights applies to today's Web:

"Government censorship of the Web is growing rapidly: from the outright blocking and filtering of sites, to court orders limiting access to information and legislation forcing companies to self-censor content," Drummond wrote. "We believe that greater transparency will lead to less censorship."

Drummond wrote more about this in an editorial for the Washington Post here.

The Government Requests tool comes in the wake of a major flap with China stemming from a cyber-attack last year. Google claimed in January that hackers accessed Gmail accounts to learn information about human rights activists.

The company shuttered its Chinese search engine and ported users to Google.hk. This is a major reason Google is stepping up its anti-censorship lobbying on Capitol Hill, where the company spent $1.4 million to influence policy makers in the first quarter.

This isn't the first data transparency tool Google has launched as the company seeks to quell privacy and transparency fears from mounting government and advocate opposition.

The company created Google Dashboard last year to consolidate data about Google Apps usage for users, and launched an Ad Preferences Manager to let users delete interest-based categories tied to their browsers.

Google also launched the Data Liberation Front to educate consumers about how they can move data to and from Google applications.

Government Requests came a day after Canada and nine other countries complained about Google's privacy-poor launch of the Google Buzz social service and asked the company to provide better privacy measures. 

Rocket Fuel