Google Details Government Requests for User Data

A new online transparency report introduced by Google on Tuesday shines the spotlight on the actions that governments around the world have been taking to control the flow of information. Among other things, the report delineates the number of government inquiries for information about users as well as the number of requests that Google has received pertaining to the removal of specific web content.

Google said it believes its responsibilities include ensuring that the company maximizes transparency around the flow of information related to Google tools and services. “We hope this step toward greater transparency will help in ongoing discussions about the appropriate scope and authority of government requests” as well as “help facilitate studies about service outages and disruptions,” Google said.

The U.S. Leads the Field

According to Google, the United States ranked number one during the first half of 2010 among nations requesting information about individual web surfers. The search giant said it complied with nearly 83 percent of the more than 4,200 data requests issued by U.S. courts.

Ranking second, Brazil issued 2,435 requests for data concerning individual Internet users during the first six months of this year. The other top nations requesting user data were India (1,430), the United Kingdom (1,343), and France (1,017).

One glaring omission in Google’s transparency report is the lack of any data on user-information requests from China. “Chinese officials consider censorship demands as state secrets, so we cannot disclose that information at this time,” Google explained.

When it comes to court orders asking Google to remove specific content from its web properties, Brazil led the field by submitting nearly 400 requests covering the removal of nearly 20,000 content items. Libya (149) ranks second after Brazil, followed by the United States (128), Germany (124), and Italy (69).

Google said its biggest removal-request generator involves complaints pertaining to…

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