Google Adds Goverment Takedown and User Data Requests Part Of Their Transparency Report

GoogleGoogle has made an interesting statement on their blog. It is not one that will surprise anyone or something that is a revelation, but it was interesting to see Google (who is under pressure from the government on many fronts) actually spelling it out. Oh yeah, the statement is basically saying that it is not just countries like China that are trying to censor the web pages available on the internet; it is democratic governments too (including the US).

The comment from Google shows up on their blog yesterday and is (we feel) a response to some of the recent claims that Google needs to be more transparent. Before Google’s Transparency report was to show what Google is doing to help combat online piracy. This is something that the RIAA and MPAA keep harping over (even though they are exceptionally abusive in their tactics and requests) and with the MPAA and RIAA lobbying the government to push more restrictive internet laws the show of takedown requests was needed (for many reasons).

Now in an effort to show a pattern of behavior Google is dropping in takedown requests filed by governments along with requests for user information. You can queue the sinister music any time now. Some of you might be wondering why Google would do this with all of the headaches they have going on right now including claims of antitrust behavior in the US and the EU. Well right after the internet blackout over SOPA Google made an official announcement that it would no longer get directly involved in fighting censorship. It felt (and possibly rightly) that it was not in their best interest as a company. We suspected that Google would get punished for their direct actions against SOPA and that they did not want to deal with that in the future.

However, another way to deal with the issue and inform them public is to show exactly what governments are doing; all in the name of transparency.

One of my favorite lines of the blog post is; “We noticed that government agencies from different countries would sometimes ask us to remove political content that our users had posted on our services. We hoped this was an aberration. But now we know it’s not.”

What is scary is that the US has the largest number of user data requests for the time period shown. This is a staggering 6,321 requests for a total of 12,243 user accounts. Now these are the same people that claim they are not going to abuse laws like CISPA or laws that allow them to by-pass existing privacy laws. Yet we see that this is not completely true. At 6,000 requests from July to December that is something on the order of 32 per day. Google did annotate this to say that the number of US requests also included requests from other governments based on treaties or legal agreements, but still 6,000 in 6 months?

You can view the blog post and both the user data requests and Google’s annotations on the takedown requests by country. They make for very interesting reading. Again (and this is nothing we have not said before) there is a concerted movement to restrict free and open speech. This includes opposing views and the exposure of potential wrong doing by elected officials. Remember that some in New York want to be able to expose anonymous posters of Political Commentary that they do not like, all they have to do is claim it is defamatory (proof is not needed, just like copyright takedown requests…). This is happening at a time when we are seeing communications technology bloom at an amazing rate. We do feel that commentary that actually IS defamatory in nature (meaning it is untrue) should be takendown, but again their needs to be proof that the posts or comments are untrue or are presenting opinion as fact etc. This makes the request for a removal of an article, post or anything more difficult and puts the burden of the proof on the requestor where it should be.

Blog Entry
User Data Requests
Government Takedown Request Annotations

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