Google Transparency Report points to rising govt surveillance

Google recently shared data as part of its Transparency Report, complete with infiormation on government requests they received from January to June 2012.

Google recently shared data as part of its Transparency Report, complete with information on government requests it received from January to June 2012. Google’s latest Transparency Report is its sixth in the two years following its launch in 2010. Tracking the nature of government surveillance, the latest report reveals that government surveillance is on the rise. Elaborating further using a graph, Google in its official blog post, shares that the governments' demands for user data have only grown since the first Transparency Report was released. The post shared that in the first half of 2012, there were 20,938 inquiries from government entities around the world. Those requests were for information about 34,614 accounts.

Google Transparency Report points to rising govt surveillance

More government requests now



Dorothy Chou, senior policy analyst, goes on to add that government requests to remove content from Google’s services did not grow much from 2009 to 2011. However, things changed in this reporting period, wherein the numbers grew. Google shared that in the first half of 2012, there were 1,791 requests from government officials around the world to remove 17,746 pieces of content. 


In its Transparency Report, Google has offered an insight into the country-wise trends pertaining to requests for access to user data, and to remove content from Google's services in the Transparency Report itself. Chou shares that the numbers continue to go up in aggregate globally.


Shedding some light on the report itself, Chou adds, "As always, we continue to improve the Transparency Report with each data release. Like before, we’re including annotations for this time period with interesting facts. We’re also showing new bar graphs with data in addition to tables to better display content removal trends over time.” Interestingly, Google’s Transparency report has been translated into 40 languages. The FAQ, which includes explanations about how Google received falsified court orders asking it to remove content, has been expanded. ”We do our best to verify the legitimacy of the documents we receive, and if we determine that any are fake, we don’t comply,” Chou adds further. 


While acknowledging the importance of revealing the way in which government actions affected users, Google shares that at the time of the Transparency Report launch, it did not have a lot of data in hand that would ascertain how “governments sometimes hamper the free flow of information on the web.” 


Google’s Transparency Report in June this year showed how Western democracies attempted to censor the Internet as the usual suspects such as China and India do. The Transparency Report is released bi-annually as a result of the process being manual and people-driven. 


At the time in India, Google received 101 content removal requests from July to December 2011. However, from January to June 2011, Google received 68 content removal requests. Out of all of Google's products, YouTube seems to have the largest number of 'offences'. On YouTube, Blogger, and Search, defamation was the reason most cited for removal. On Orkut, while defamation was still a featured reason, the biggest offence was impersonation.

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