Google has revealed that requests by governments for data on users is increasing. In the first six months of 2012, there were 20,938 requests for information on users.
Google has published Transparency Reports since 2010. The most recent report shows that government surveillance is on the rise. Senior Google policy analyst Dorothy Chou writes: “In the first half of 2012, there were 20,938 inquiries from government entities around the world. Those requests were for information about 34,614 accounts.” In the first half of last year there were less than 16,000 requests.
The United States made by far the most user data requests. The US government also had the highest rate of compliance with 90 percent of its requests being carried out by Google. The US government also requested that seven YouTube videos be removed for criticizing local and state government agencies, police or public officials. Google refused to comply with these requests. The number of requests for user data has risen continually from a low of 12,539 requests in 2009 July through December, to the present high of 20,938 in the first half of this year. However, the lowest number of requests for removal was just last year in January to June at 949, but the first half of this year, the requests almost doubled to 1791.
There is a breakdown of requests for user data by country. The US has by far the highest number of requests but also has by far the highest number of user accounts involved. It also has the highest success rate in getting Google to comply. The US made 7,969 requests for user data in the first half of this year. Compliance was 90 percent and the requests involved 16,281 individual accounts. Total requests for this period were 20,938 well over one quarter of the requests were from the US alone, and with respect to accounts, the US requests were well over 40 percent of the total account requests.
In comparison, Russia made 58 requests with 0 compliance by Google on 58 accounts. Turkey made 118 requests with 0 compliance on 120 accounts. Even Canada had poor compliance at just 24 percent on 50 requests on 50 accounts. Israel did a bit better with 60 percent compliance on 55 requests involving 55 accounts.
There was an increase in requests for material to be removed as well. In the first half of 2012, there were 1791 requests for removal of material. Many of the requests had defamation as the reason for removal. The US asked for many of the removals, 273 in total. The compliance rate was much lower than for requests for user data. Less than half 45 percent of the requests were acted upon. Canada had a better compliance rate of 58 percent on just 33 requests. The number of items removed cannot simply be correlated to the number of requests, as some requests are for removal of multiple items.