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Government Technology Featured Article

November 13, 2012

Google: Government Surveillance on the Rise

By Rachel Ramsey, TMCnet Web Editor

Transparency is a core value at Google (News - Alert). The search engine giant’s Transparency Report was created to disclose real-time and historical traffic to Google services around the world, numbers of removal requests it receives from copyright owners or governments and numbers of user data requests received from government agencies and courts.

Like other technology and communications companies, Google regularly receives requests from government agencies and courts around the world to hand over user data. In its report, Google discloses the number of requests it receives from each government in six-month periods with certain limitations.

Today, Google updated the Transparency Report for the sixth time with data about government requests from January to June 2012. According to Google, one trend is clear; government surveillance is on the rise.

Since Google first launched the Transparency Report, government demands for user data have increased steadily. In the first half of 2012, there were 20,938 inquiries from government entities around the world for about 34,614 accounts. The number of government requests to remove content from Google’s services was “largely flat” from 2009 to 2011, but it’s spiked in this reporting period. In the first half of 2012, there were 1,791 requests from government officials around the world to remove 17,746 pieces of content. 

Images via Google

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 the 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.

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 (News - Alert) videos for criticizing local and state government agencies, law enforcement or public officials.”) It didn’t comply with any of such requests, it says.

In the past year, more companies have begun to share their statistics, including Dropbox, LinkedIn (News - Alert), and Twitter.

“Our hope is that over time, more data will bolster public debate about how we can best keep the Internet free and open,” wrote Dorothy Chou, senior policy analyst, Google.

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO Miami 2013, Jan 29- Feb. 1 in Miami, Florida.  Stay in touch with everything happening at ITEXPO (News - Alert). Follow us on Twitter.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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