Talking tech since 2003

In our modern age of the Internet, people have a lot of concerns in the regard of computer and Internet privacy.  One company that is often brought up in computer privacy debates is the Internet giant Google.  Google is estimated to own upwards of one-million servers, and because of this often is seen as being one of the largest – if not the largest – data-mining companies in the world.  Recently, Google opened up a new informational page, detailing the number of requests made from government authorities to either remove listings or data from the site, or to request information on a person or group.

The page, which can be found at google.com/governmentrequests, shows the number of take-down and information requests Google received from different countries.  The United States was the fourth leading take-down requester, requesting that a total of one-hundred and twenty-one sites, indexes, files, and accounts be removed from Google’s indexes.  These requests are as follows.

  • 3 AdWords accounts
  • 1 Google Apps account
  • 12 Blogger accounts
  • 1 Book Search
  • 1 Geo listing
  • 1 Gmail account
  • 1 Google Video
  • 5 Google Groups
  • 1 Orkut
  • 27 Web Searches
  • 70 YouTube videos

As you can see from the list above, the United States mainly requested the take-downs of YouTube videos.  While this information is useful, it fails to elaborate on the reasons behind the removal of said videos.  This being said, we do not know if the videos were infringing of copyright, child pornography, military secrets, etc.

Additionally, the United States requested information of 3,580 individuals and organizations.  While this may seem like a relatively high number, it is important to note that it is very small (0.00001%) number compared to the more than three-hundred million people residing in the United States.

When I first heard about this site, I expected to see much higher numbers than I did.  However, these relatively low numbers help to further build my trust for Google and their privacy consciousness.  While I would not be a fan of the government having access to everything, I believe that at a level of national security, it is important for the government to have access to information to protect the people.  Further, I believe that the number take-down and information requests is relatively low, and definitely reasonable.

Interestingly, China has refused to allow Google to publish the number of informational and take-down requests.  According to the site, “Chinese officials consider censorship demands as state secrets, so we cannot disclose that information at this time.”  Because of this, I believe that the Chinese government has a high number of requests.  Backed by the recent humans rights debates and China’s history of censorship, this seems extremely likely.

All in all, the I feel that the United States has been extremely reasonable in their requests to Google, and that Google is extremely fair in their handling of the requests.  While I wouldn’t want Google to simply hand over my information or blacklist my website without due cause, it makes me feel safer as a United States citizen knowing that Google co-operates with the police, and ultimately works to protect people’s lives.

What do you think about Google’s co-operating with government information requests and take-down orders?  Do you feel that the numbers are too high?  Too low?  Leave your opinion in the comments.


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