Google: Greater transparency around government requests

Government requests directed to Google and YouTube

Like other technology and communications companies, we regularly receive requests from government agencies around the world to remove content from our services, or provide information about users of our services and products. The map shows the number of requests that we received between July 1, 2009 and December 31, 2009, with certain limitations.

Simon Rogers writes on the Guardians Data Blog: Google data requests from governments: full list, as a spreadsheet Google has released details of government requests for its data. This is the full list

Stung by complaints over its approach to privacy – and state attempts to clamp down on the internet – Google has revealed governments’ requests to remove data from the web and get information about users. It has released a map showing country by country where it has had government requests or court orders to remove content from YouTube or its search results, or to provide details about users of its services.

The release of the tool was announced on its official blog, comes as it has had to counter complaints from data protection authorities in 10 countries, including the UK, that its Street View product, which provides pictures of public streets, and its ad-hoc social networking service Buzz “were launched without due consideration of privacy and data protection laws” and that Buzz in particular “betrayed a disappointing disregard for fundamental privacy norms”.

Surprisingly, the list is not available as a spreadsheet – so we’ve set it up as one here.

• DATA: download the full list as a spreadsheet

On the official Google Blog David Drummond, SVP, Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer writes: Greater transparency around government requests

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights states that “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” Written in 1948, the principle applies aptly to today’s Internet — one of the most important means of free expression in the world. Yet 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.

So it’s no surprise that Google, like other technology and telecommunications companies, regularly receives demands from government agencies to remove content from our services. Of course many of these requests are entirely legitimate, such as requests for the removal of child pornography. We also regularly receive requests from law enforcement agencies to hand over private user data. Again, the vast majority of these requests are valid and the information needed is for legitimate criminal investigations. However, data about these activities historically has not been broadly available. We believe that greater transparency will lead to less censorship.

We are today launching a new Government Requests tool to give people information about the requests for user data or content removal we receive from government agencies around the world. For this launch, we are using data from July-December, 2009, and we plan to update the data in 6-month increments. Read this post to learn more about our principles surrounding free expression and controversial content on the web.

Related posts:

  1. Google is adding search power to public opendata
  2. Open Government: Collaboration, Transparency, and Participation in Practice,
  3. Deep Search – Politik des Suchens jenseits von Google
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