Big Brother? Gov’t user data requests to Google nearly double in three years

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Governments who want to know about their citizens are increasingly turning to the company that knows you better than anyone else. Google says it received 20 938 inquiries about user data from government entities around the world in the first half of 2012.

Those requests were for information about 34 614 accounts and was up from 12 359 in requests leading up to January 2009.

Government user requests

The country most interested in getting user data from Google, is the United States, which made 7 969 requests, with Google complying 90% of the time.

Behind the US are the likes of India, the UK, France and Germany.

Perhaps more concerning for anyone who’s an advocate of the Open Web though is the fact that the number of requests from governments to Google to take down content has spiked in the last few months.

In the first half of 2012, says Google, there were 1 791 requests from government officials around the world to remove 17 746 pieces of content.

The fact that the number of requests between 2009 and 2011 was largely flat shows just how serious governments have become about what they consider to be online threats.

Requests to remove content

In some high-profile cases — such as when it received a request from a Brazilian enforcement agency to remove seven blog posts for allegedly defaming the honour of a local mayor, judge and police chief of the Pará State — Google declined to take the content down.

As the internet giant notes, the information it discloses in its transparency reports is only an isolated sliver showing how governments interact with the internet.

As more companies like Dropbox, LinkedIn, Sonic.net and Twitter share their statistics however, we may begin to get a more complete perspective of what governments are doing online.

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