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Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Google releases government requests data

Google's Government Requests Tool  launched on 20 April provides information about requests for user data or content removal received from government agencies or arising from court orders around the world. In the last six months o f last year Australian government agencies made 155 requests for information including 17 for remove all or some information:14 from You Tube, and 1 each from Blogger and Geo and a web search. Google complied fully or partially with 52%. No other details. Has anyone asked Canberra about the requests for user data? Australian numbers for removal are small in comparison to Brazil, Germany, India (many arising from defamation suits) and the US.

Google states the release is a first step in providing more transparency about efforts at web censorship, noting many requests are entirely legitimate for example for removal of child pxxxography.
We also regularly receive requests from law enforcement agencies to hand over private user data. Again, the vast majority of these requests are valid and the information needed is for legitimate criminal investigations. However, data about these activities historically has not been broadly available. We believe that greater transparency will lead to less censorship
On political speech Google adds:
In our experience over the years a very small percentage of content removal requests from governments have centered on political speech, but often those requests are the ones that spark the most vigorous debate within Google. We have complied with some of those requests if, for instance, the material violated our own content policies. But for others, we didn’t. For example, in Argentina, a federal prosecutor claimed that information about him and his wife (a federal judge) had been posted for analysis on two political blogs and asked that we remove them. We removed a portion of one of the blogs for revealing private information about the judge, but otherwise did not comply. We also received a demand in late 2009 from a Canadian politician for the removal of a blog criticizing his policies. Again, we declined to remove the blog, because it did not violate our policies.
There’s a question mark on the world map for content removal requests from China- Chinese officials consider censorship demands as state secrets, so Google (who terminated its joint venture there because of government intrusion) politely says it cannot disclose that information at this time.

On a China related topic, my morning read at the moment in Hong Kong, the South China Morning Post today reports China shut down all anonymous comments on major news and business websites last year, and plans a real name identification system to prevent anonymous communication on websites, discussion groups and mobile telephones. Wang Chen, chief of the State Council Information Office reportedly told the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress one of the aims was to "keep harmful overseas information" from appearing on domestic websites. Wang is also reported to have said China now has more than 400 million internet users, so the finger in the dyke faces challenging times.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous9:10 pm

    One has to wonder what will happen when China’s population at large realises how to circumvent the censoring and as a result some massive news story spreads throughout the country.

    I get the impression that the net users over there are just a tad more sophisticated now compared to those around in the the Tiananmen Square days of old.

    I, for one, cannot wait to watch the societal upheaval unfold.