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Google routinely receives requests from governments around the world to purge online content and provide information about Internet users.
In the Google Transparency Report, a glimpse of the myriad of requests can be seen. This is the 5th report of its kind, released by the search giant, since the company began its battle over online censorship with China’s government.
Google is engaged in the constant balancing act of fielding these requests while at the same time trying to honor the expression of free speech and protect its users privacy.
Many of the requests are legitimate attempts to enforce laws in various countries. At the same time, Google reports that it increasingly receives requests from government agencies attempting to suppress dissenting political opinions and other content they oppose.
“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,” said Dorothy Chou, Google’s senior policy analyst.
According to Newsmax:
U.S. authorities are leading the charge as governments around the world pepper Google (GOOG) with more demands to remove online content and turn over information about people using its Internet search engine, YouTube video site and other services.”
That comment may have been aimed at the U.S., where police prosecutors, courts and other government agencies submitted 187 requests to remove content from July through December last year, more than doubling from 92 requests from January through June.
Only Brazil’s government agencies submitted more content removal requests with a total of 194 during the final half of last year. But that figure was down from 224 requests in Brazil during the first half of the year.”
Law enforcement around the world are also increasingly attempting to obtain information, from Google, on individuals suspected of engaging in criminal activity.
The total amount of requests Google received from the U.S. government for user data, during the last six months of 2011, was 6,321. Google complied with 93% of the requests, which involved over 12,200 accounts.
How does one go about requesting user information from Google? Andy Greenberg, writing for Forbes, contacted Google policy analyst Dorothy Chou who said that Google requires a written request from an appropriate agency. The request must also cite a specific criminal case.
“The data can often be very critical to a case,” Chou acknowledged. ”We want to show that we’re advocating on your behalf. But we also want to do right by the spirit and letter of the law.”
In other words, comply with the law, but don’t be evil.