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Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Government Requests For Google User Data Is Rising, Says Google

Government requests for data on Google users for the first half of 2011 increased 29% over the previous six-month time frame, according to a report released by Google today.

Governments affect access to information on the Internet. Last year Google launched an online, interactive Transparency Report. The report shows traffic patterns and disruptions to Google services, and includes figures on the number of government requests for content removal and user data the company receives from around the world.

According to the latest update of the Government Requests tool, the number of requests that Google received from January to June 2011 the U.S. government requests for data on Google users for the first half of 2011 increased 29% over the previous six-month time frame. Government agencies and courts sent a total of 5,950 user data requests between January 1 and June 30, 2011, covering 11,057 separate users and accounts. Google said that it complied with 93% of them.

Requests by the U.S. government to remove content from Google products also jumped to 92, a 59% increase. The majority of requests, which targeted 757 items, involved alleged defamation, found either in Google?s Web search results, Google groups, YouTube or in Blogger, the search giant?s blogging platform.

India was second to the U.S. with 2,439 requests for user data. Content removal requests from the U.K were increased by 71%. Thailand and India requested that Google remove YouTube videos insulting various social and religious leaders.

In France, a single court order resulted in the removal of 180 items from Google Groups relating to a case of defamation against a man and his wife, Google said. "The number of user data requests we received increased by 27% compared to the previous reporting period," the company added."

China made three content removal requests for a total of 121 items. "We removed ads that violated our AdWords policies in response to two of those requests, but did not comply otherwise. We have withheld details about one request because we have reason to believe that the Chinese government has prohibited us from full disclosure," Google said.

The transparency report also features information on traffic patterns, indicating when and where Google service access was limited.

"We believe that providing this level of detail highlights the need to modernize laws like the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which regulates government access to user information and was written 25 years ago - long before the average person had ever heard of email," said Dorothy Chou, Senior Policy Analyst at Google.

"Yet at the end of the day, the information that we're disclosing offers only a limited snapshot. We hope others join us in the effort to provide more transparency, so we?ll be better able to see the bigger picture of how regulatory environments affect the entire web," she added.

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