Google Gives In to Gov't Snooping Requests: Report

Dennis Faas's picture

A new report from Google indicates the US government is currently requesting more information about the online activity of its citizens than ever before.

In the second half of 2011, it received 6,321 requests for Internet user data, compared with 4,601 in the same period in 2010. That's a 37 per cent increase.

The figures were revealed in Google's latest Transparency Report. The US requests cover a total of 12,243 Internet users. (Source:

However, the increase in demands for user data isn't necessarily a sign that the US government is snooping more. Google said the increase could also result from the company offering more services and attracting more users than last year. (Source:

Google Usually Hands Over US User Data

There's a significant difference between how Google handles government requests for user identities and demands for material to be taken offline.

Google complied with just 42 per cent of censorship requests from the US government, but handed over user details in response to 93 per cent of all the government's requests.

There are two ways of looking at this pattern: One is simply that government officials do a much better job of making valid requests for information about users than they do of highlighting material which genuinely needs to be taken offline.

Another is that Google officials may believe the company is at greater risk of legal sanctions if it ignores demands for user identities than if it leaves controversial material online.

Russia Among Main Sources For Unjust Demands

Other countries making more than a thousand demands of Google for user data include Brazil, France, Germany, India, and the United Kingdom.

Google says it reacted very differently to demands from those sources: it handed over data in 90 per cent of cases in Brazil, but it refused to comply in the majority of cases involving France and Germany.

In every single case involving government-issued data demands from Hungary, Russia, and Turkey, Google refused to hand over user details.

However, the company didn't explain whether that is because the demands were unjustified, or because it doesn't fear any legal consequences from refusing the requests of those governments.

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