Government Snooping Increasing, Google Says

Dennis Faas's picture

Google says that national governments are demanding access to its user data more than ever before. The search giant also says governments are making more requests for it to take controversial information offline.

These revelations come in the latest edition of Google's Transparency Index, a semi-annual report designed to shed light on the state of online censorship.

It takes Google several months to compile the data, so the new information covers 20,939 requests for user data and other demands made only between January and June 2012. 

Compare that to Google's 2009 Transparency Index, which reported that only 12,539 of these same requests had been made of the company. (Source:

US Government Makes Most Data Demands

The US once again topped the list of governments making demands of Google, this time with 7,969 requests to access user data.

The number may be somewhat misleading, however, because Google is based in the US. Therefore, it stores more data there and may be subject to more data access requests from that country's government.

Other governments making significant numbers of requests for Google's user data include, in descending order, India, Brazil, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

Google was also most likely to abide by requests made by the US government, complying in 90 per cent of cases.

Compliance varied widely for requests from other governments. For example, Google refused to hand over user data in response to any of the 92 requests from Hungary, 58 requests from Russia, or 112 requests from Turkey.

The report also tabulated cases where Google was asked to remove content said to break the law. The report indicates that infringement complaints by copyright holders are rising, and that sites dedicated to file sharing garner the most complaints.

1,000 Government Orders to Remove Content

The number of demands from governments to take material offline topped 1,000 for the first time, according to the report. More than one-third of those requests cited defamation, while one in five stemmed from alleged breaches of privacy and security.

Google's report seemed keen to stress that the company rejected many takedown requests.

In one case, an Italian obtained a civil court order requiring Google to take down links to a government website that allegedly violated his privacy. Google refused to comply, telling the individual to take up the matter with the website operators.

Similarly, in the United Kingdom, Google refused to remove YouTube clips that criticized the police. (Source:

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