Google Releases Data on Government Requests for Private User Data

Interesting coincidence? Not sure who is the real threat to privacy.

Yesterday, privacy regulators from 10 countries (Canada, Israel, Spain, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Ireland, New Zealand and the U.K.) attacked search giant Google for allegedly lax privacy practices.

And yesterday, Google started publishing stats on requests from law enforcement agencies from around the world to hand over private user data:

“Again, the vast majority of these requests are valid and the information needed is for legitimate criminal investigations. However, data about these activities historically has not been broadly available. We believe that greater transparency will lead to less censorship.”

“We are today launching a new Government Requests tool to give people information about the requests for user data or content removal we receive from government agencies around the world. For this launch, we are using data from July-December, 2009, and we plan to update the data in 6-month increments.”

Google did not include data from China. Brazil tops the list, with 3,663 data requests between 1 July and 31 December 2009. The US made 3,580 and the UK came third with 1,166. Brazil made the highest number of requests to Google to remove content with 291 requests. In second place was Germany with 188, India with 142 and the US with 123 requests.

CNET News reports that the new Google tool still has many flaws:

“… the tool doesn’t break out the data for the number of times Google complied or refused requests for information on individuals. It does say how often–in general–it complies with takedown requests, but does not provide specifics.The numbers don’t include requests made as part of civil court proceeding …”


  1. I’ve spent about 20 minutes perusing the information Google has provided about this. My impression is that despite all the numbers there is no real “information”.

    What criteria does Google use in deciding whether to comply? It states specifically that Google hands over user information without knowing at times whether it is sought for a criminal investigation or for some other purpose. One might draw the inference that if Google is handing over information without knowing why the government wants it, they are likely handing it over without a fight even when they don’t have to. That makes promises to keep personal info confidential ring a bit hollow. Ie “we’ll keep your info confidential, provided no one asks for it.”