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Google reports government requests are on the rise

Surveillance is on the rise

Government requests to Google for user data and content removal rose sharply over the first six months of 2012.

In an official blog post yesterday, the web giant announced the sixth data release for its Transparency Report. The stats show that from January to June 2012, the total number of government requests for user data was 20,938 – up from 12,539 in July to December 2009. The US topped the list with 7,969 requests for user data, while the UK came 6th with 1,425. Google complied partially or fully with 64 per cent of requests from the UK government and government agencies, including the police and courts.

Government requests for the removal of content have also spiked during this period, with the worldwide total of 1,791 up from 1,048 in the preceding six months. 79 of these came from the UK government, including 2 YouTube videos cited as hate speech, and 14 search results accused of government criticism. However, there were also 2,865 requests by the Office of Fair Trading to remove AdWords ads breaking UK laws.

Dorothy Chou, senior policy analyst at Google, said: “This is the sixth time we’ve released this data, and one trend has become clear: Government surveillance is on the rise.”

Copyright clampdown

As well as government requests, the Google Transparency Report reveals the number of content removal requests from copyright owners and organisations. The stats show a clear upwards trend, from 129,062 URLs in the week reporting began in July 2011, to 1,981,219 URLs in the week ending 5th November 2012. Over the past year, some of the organisations and owners that have made the most requests include Degban, Microsoft, the Recording Industry Association of America, and the British Phonographic Industry.

Tom Glass, creative director at theEword, commented: “With so much personal user data at their disposal, it’s no wonder Google receives so many requests from governments around the world. The question is what they do with that power – and the Transparency Report shows the company is clearly aware of this huge responsibility.”

Written by Rachel Hand

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