20,938 inquiries were received from government entities for information about 34,614 accounts
1,791 requests from government officials to remove 17,746 pieces of content
THOSE who envision an Orwellian version of the future just got more data to back up the claim that Big Brother is ever present and ever watchful.
According to the sixth edition of Google’s Transparency Report, the company’s initiative to track and share information on government interferences with its activities, one trend has been made clear: Government surveillance is on the rise worldwide.
During the first half of 2012, the report found that 20,938 inquiries were received from government entities around the world for information about 34,614 accounts.
The report, which is available in 40 languages, also shared that the number of government requests to remove content from Google’s services was largely flat from 2009 to 2011.
However it spiked in this during the first half of 2012, with 1,791 requests from government officials around the world to remove 17,746 pieces of content.
In a blog post by Dorothy Chou, Google’s senior policy analyst, said the company continues to improve the report with each data release.
“Like before, we’re including annotations for this time period with interesting facts. We’re also showing new bar graphs with data in addition to tables to better display content removal trends over time,” she said.
“We’ve also expanded our FAQ, including one that explains how we sometimes receive falsified court orders asking us to remove content,” she added.
The following countries made the most requests for user data (Jan to June 2012) (Click image to enlarge):
United States (7,969)
The following countries made the most requests to remove content (Jan to June 2012) (Click image to enlarge):
United States (273)
United Kingdom (97)
Globally, the top three reasons cited by governments for the removal of content are defamation, privacy and security.
Only two requests were received from Malaysia during the reporting period, one for reason of defamation on blogging platform Blogger and the other for hate speech on video-sharing platform YouTube.
According to Google’s country summary, since July 2010, defamation (50%) is the number one reason stated by Malaysian agencies in its requests to Google, followed by hate speech (33%) and Impersonation (17%).
Chou said that when the Transparency Report was launched in early 2010, there wasn’t much data available about how governments sometimes hamper the free flow of information on the web.
“The information currently disclosed is only an isolated sliver showing how governments interact with the Internet, since for the most part we don’t know what requests are made of other technology or telecommunications companies,” she said.
However Chou added that the company was “heartened” that in the past year, more companies like Dropbox, LinkedIn, Sonic.net and Twitter have also begun to share their statistics.
“Our hope is that over time, more data will bolster public debate about how we can best keep the Internet free and open,” she added.