U.S. feds issued 6,000+ info requests on 12,000+ accounts

Google Inc. (GOOG) has increasingly been the subject of government inquiries of late in many regions, following accusations that it was abusing smaller competitors and snooping on peoples' private communications.  But Google is pointing the finger right back at the government with its new Transparency Report, which offers such details as traffic patterns/service disruptions by country and a section on copyright takedown requests.

I. Google Accuses "Western Democracies" of "Censorship"

Now it’s spilling more intimate details about countries' online demands.  The company writes:

The traffic and copyright sections of the Transparency Report are refreshed in near-real-time, but government request data is updated in six-month increments because it’s a people-driven, manual process. Today we’re releasing data showing government requests to remove blog posts or videos or hand over user information made from July to December 2011. 

It calls the takedown requests (many of which were filed on the basis of defamation claims of government officials or on anti-terrorism grounds) and user data requests sometimes reasonable, but often "troubling".  It bemoans, "It’s alarming not only because free expression is at risk, but because some of these requests come from countries you might not suspect—Western democracies not typically associated with censorship."

The U.S. led the user information requests, with nearly three times as many requests (6,321 requests) as the next closest country, India (2,207 requests).  Brazil (1,615 requests), France (1,404 requests), Germany (1,426 requests), and the UK (1,455 requests) were also near the top in terms of quantity of requests.  

USA Number one
The U.S. was number one... in user information requests. [Image Source: TheOriginalWinger]

The U.S. requests targeted 12,243 accounts.  Google complied with 93 percent of the requests.  Compliance in other regions was significantly lower -- for example in India Google only complied with 66 percent of requests.

It's interesting to note that Google may have actually committed a criminal act of defiance by posting information on the U.S. takedowns, despite not posting details of the takedowns.  Much of information demands in the U.S. are accomplished by National Security Letters (NSLs), which have been considered illegal to talk about.

It's hard to imagine that Google's anonymized general statistics would land it in much hot water, but stranger things have happened.  (It's also possible the information requests do not include NSL requests.)

II. Details on Blog/Video Takedowns

Regarding U.S. blog/video takedown requests, the site writes:
  • We received a request from a local law enforcement agency to remove a blog because of a post that allegedly defamed a law enforcement official in a personal capacity. We did not comply with this request, which we have categorized in this Report as a defamation request.
  • We received a request from a local law enforcement agency to remove 1,400 YouTube videos for alleged harassment. We did not comply with this request. Separately, we received a request from a different local law enforcement agency to remove five user accounts that allegedly contained threatening and/or harassing content. We terminated four of the accounts, which resulted in the removal of approximately 300 videos, but did not remove the remaining account with 54 videos.
  • We received a court order to remove 218 search results that linked to allegedly defamatory websites. We removed 25% of the results cited in the request.
Takedown MMA
The U.S. and other nations were a bit takedown happy at times. [Image Source: AP Photo]

Google says that it complies with 65 percent of court orders worldwide in terms of government requests, and only complies with 47 percent -- roughly one out of every two -- informal requests.

One interesting tidbit -- China's conspicuous absence in the government request chart was likely due to two factors.  First, the target windows was July to December 2011, at which time some Google services like YouTube were still inaccessible following the company's brief spat and total ban in the nation.  Second Google apparently agreed to withhold some details, a fact it reveals, writing, "We have withheld details about one request because we have reason to believe that the Chinese government has prohibited us from full disclosure."

So Google may even have been forced to censor its report on censorship.

"Well, we didn't have anyone in line that got shot waiting for our system." -- Nintendo of America Vice President Perrin Kaplan

Most Popular Articles

Copyright 2018 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki