Google reveals details on govt data requests

Dylan Bushell-Embling
22 Apr 2010


For the first time Google has revealed details on requests from government agencies for data about its users.


The disclosure comes a day after privacy officials from ten governments called on the search firm to tighten its privacy controls.


Google is disclosing the number of requests it had received for user data, and the number of government take-down requests received across its services, including search, YouTube, and Blogger.


The disclosure tool, shows that Brazil has issued the most requests for data – 3,663 -, followed closely by the US, at 3,580.


The UK (third overall) has issued the most data requests in Europe, with 1,166, followed by France, with 846.


Google said it was prohibited by Chinese law from disclosing the number of Chinese government requests.


“We hope this tool will shine some light on the scale and scope of government requests for censorship and data around the globe,” Google's chief legal officer, David Drummond, said in a blog post.


“We believe that greater transparency will lead to less censorship.”


Privacy advocates praised Google for the decision, the WSJ said, but added that the figures weren't yet useful because there was not much data to compare them with.


Google says that it only cedes to government requests for user data if it must do so to comply with local law, and will narrow requests whenever possible.


It also tries to notify users when requests for data or content removal regarding their accounts are received.


In what Google has called “ironic” timing, the disclosure tool was launched the day after Google received a letter from a cadre of privacy officials in ten countries, asking Google to build more privacy protections into its services.


Dylan Bushell-Embling

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