Were you a target of any of the nearly 21,000 requests made by governments worldwide in the first half of 2012 for access to search results, Gmail accounts and other data Google holds for its users? The number of appeals is almost twice that of the 12,539 made in the last six months of 2009, when Google first published its Transparency Report.
Authorities issued 1,791 requests for Google to remove 17,746 pieces of content in the first six months of 2012, almost double the 949 requests made in the same interval last year. In the last half of 2011, 1,048 appeals were made.
The United States issued more requests than any other nation because many Google users reside in the country. U.S. authorities are also more familiar with Google than officials in some other nations, and foreign governments sometimes seek information through U.S. channels. In those instances, the countries from which the requests originate remain unknown.
Defamation, privacy and security were the top three reasons cited by governments in their removal appeals. Google also reports numerous instances of having received fake court documents asking it to remove content.
One of the sharpest rises came in requests from Turkey, which held an election on 12 June 2011. Google reported a 1,013% rise in requests from Turkish authorities in the latest reporting period, including 148 requests to remove 426 YouTube videos, Blogger blogs, one Google document and one search result. The contested items allegedly criticised Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (the first president of Turkey), the government or “national identity and values”. Google restricted Turkish users from accessing 63% of the YouTube videos. It did not remove the other content.
The US accounted for the most requests, as it has consistently since the report was launched. US authorities asked for private details of Google users on 7,969 occasions, up from 6,321 in the last reporting period. The number is more than a third of the 20,938 requests for users’ details worldwide. Google fully or partially complied with 90% of those requests.
… Europe now accounts for five of the top 10 countries making requests for user data. France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK are all in the top 10 in terms of numbers of requests. The number of requests for content removal in the UK shot up 98% in the UK and 60% in Spain. In the UK, local police authorities unsuccessfully pressed for Google to remove links to sites that accused the police of obscuring crime and racism. The UK is currently considering a bill that would require internet and phone companies to track and store every citizen’s web and mobile phone use, including social networking sites, without retaining their content, for 12 months.