Google: Government Snooping ‘On the Rise’

By Cameron Scott 

google transparency, online privacy, Internet surveillance“Government surveillance is on the rise,” Google proclaimed in a blog post pointing to its latest semiannual Transparency Report on the efforts of world governments to compel the company to remove content or hand over individual information.

In the first half of 2012, the company received 20,938 inquiries — up from 18,257 in the previous six-month period — from government entities around the world. The requests related to 34,614 accounts. Requests to remove content rose 71 percent in the reporting period to 1,791. Those requests pertained to 17,746 pieces of content, Google said.

Defamation was the most common issue the requests cited, followed by privacy and security.

The U.S. government issued most user data requests, though Google notes that it sometimes does so on behalf of other governments. Still, requests from American officials were up by nearly half since the previous report.

Google was most likely to comply with requests from the U.S., suggesting that the requests came with the most legal backing.

After the U.S., the governments of India, Brazil, France, Germany and the U.K. made most user data requests. The U.K. nearly doubled its requests from the previous reporting period.

Google most often complied with requests from Japan, Denmark, the Netherlands and Brazil.

It never or nearly never complied with requests from Turkey, Russia, Hungary or Ireland.

In several cases, the company noted, it did not comply with requests because they were incomplete or contained inaccurate URLs.

Google received requests to request to take down content that reflected poorly on government officials from Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, the Philippines, and the United States. (The company cited requests from American law enforcement to “remove seven YouTube videos for criticizing local and state government agencies, law enforcement or public officials.”) It didn’t comply with any of such requests, it says.

Google blocked viewers in Russia from watching 160 YouTube videos that the Russian government said contained “extremist content” in violation of the country’s Law on Counteracting Extremist Activity.

Several Google services were “inaccessible” in Iran during the reporting period, the company said.