US government asks Google to turn over more and more private user data

Every so often Google voluntarily releases reports in regards to requests made by governments across the world to access private user data. The recently released bi-annual report by Google notes there has been an increase of around 37% in the requests for private data of users by the US government.

According to the Transparency Report released by Google, Google received 6,321 requests from the US government to handover private data of its users in the second half of 2011, of which 93% were requests were fulfilled by the internet giant. This number of requests showed an increase of 37% from the first half of the same year.

The graph above clearly shows the spike in the requests for private user data by the US government. The requests in the last half of 2011 have increased by roughly 75% in two years, from the last half of 2009.

Andy Greenberg, a Forbes staff writer, reported:

Google policy analyst Dorothy Chou told me in an interview prior to the data’s release that one example of the requests might be for the IP addresses of users who log into their Google accounts, which law enforcement agents use to locate individuals involved in criminal cases such as kidnapping.

While Google is complying with increased requests from the US government, it should be noted Google has been relatively less compliant to requests from other countries. For example, Google didn’t accept any of the requests from Russia or Turkey. At the same time, though the percentage of accepted requests were less, requests from non-US governments for private user data had also been increasing significantly; coming to 11,936 in the last of 2011 from 8,959 in the last half of 2009.

Google also made public the number of requests made by governments around the world to take down content hosted on their services. The US government made 187 requests to remove 6,192 items of content during second half of 2011, which is an increase from 54 requests to remove 1,421 items of content in the second half of 2010.

According to Google,

“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,” reads the post from Google’s Chou. “Just like every other time before, we’ve been asked to take down political speech. It’s alarming not only because free expression is at risk, but because some of these requests come from countries you might not suspect—Western democracies not typically associated with censorship.”

Google’s steps to provide more respect to the private data of its users and its decision to make public the requests for private data of its users are actions that deserve to be praised; even if it is somewhat of a smoke screen considering how chillax Google is when collecting user data to provide better targeted ads.

[via Forbes]

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5 comments

  1. vixiv

    It’s not a matter of compliance. It’s a matter of expansion and acquisition. Do you really believe AT&T is so ready to turn over your personal information to comply with the law? It’s a matter of expansion plans and federal approval. If these companies willingly, readily, and quickly provide whatever information the fed demands they will have a greater chance of having their next acquisition approved. Do you really believe that the Baby Bells were allowed to recombine because it was better for customers or service? No, a large monopolistic corporation in violation of antitrust laws is more convenient for monitoring citizens. The fed approves takeovers and in exchange the companies monitor our activities.

  2. Ashraf
    Mr. Boss

    @Bull: Do you really think other Web 2.0 company doesnt comply to gov requests? Of course they do, largely because they have to follow the laws of the countries they operate on — Google is just more transparent about it (which is ironic-ish).

  3. Ashraf
    Mr. Boss

    Im not pro or anti gov but…

    It should be noted we dont know for what purpose the gov is asking for user data. Most, if not all, are probably legit requests to assist law enforcement. At least in non dictatorships.

    What is more concerning, in my opinion, are the content take down requests. While we dont know if the take down requests are for legit purposes or not (e.g. child pornography, file sharing, etc.) Google does state some of the requests are to take down political content, i.e. censorship.