Governments Hungrier For Customer Data, Google Reports
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Governments sent Google more than 20,000 user data requests in the first half of 2012 and made targeted inquiries into 34,000 accounts. That's a sign, according to the search giant, that government surveillance of Internet activities is on the rise.
Compared with the same period last year, the number of data requests from governments has risen by 30 percent.
The bulk of the requests came from the U.S., which made just fewer than 7,000 requests for data concerning more than 16,000 accounts.
India and Brazil were the second and third most curious governments, making inquiries into the accounts of 3,500 and 2,600 individuals, respectively.
On the other end of the spectrum were Ireland, Denmark and Norway. Each nation presented Google with fewer than 40 requests for data.
Of course, the U.S., Brazil and India are much larger than Ireland, Norway or Denmark. But per capita, the rate of American requests was three times that of Ireland.
The beginning of 2012 also brought with it a huge spike in takedown requests for content on YouTube, Blogger and other Google services. In the same reporting period, Google received 1,790 takedown requests, almost double the 1,050 complaints it received last year.
Google's disclosures began in 2010 and are part of an Internet-wide movement aimed at keeping governments accountable and transparent and information free and flowing.
As the British digital-security firm Sophos notes on its Naked Security blog, Google competitor Yahoo was slammed by free-press advocacy NGO Reporters Without Borders after handing over data Chinese authorities used to convict two political dissidents.
The ruling Communist party undoubtedly made some similar inquiries to Google over the reporting period, but Google's rocky relationship with Beijing may have something to do with China's absence from the report.
Google chose to stop filtering search results, per Chinese law, and moved its Chinese headquarters from Beijing to Hong Kong after a state-sponsored attack dubbed "Operation Aurora" breached the Gmail accounts of thousands of activists in China and abroad, employees of Yahoo, Symantec and other tech, defense and industrial firms.
Google said a request for content removal come from copyright holders and reporting organizations such as the BPI and RIAA, at much higher rate than they do from governments.
Google also noted that a takedown request doesn't necessarily guarantee action. The company routinely refuses requests to take down offensive and disparaging content, and also refuses information requests from governments around the world.
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