Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Google’s Most Active Big Brother Is the U.S. Government

Which nation is most likely to ask Google to take down user content or hand over user data? The U.S. — and increasingly so.

The U.S. government asked Google to hand over user data 6,321 times in the second half of 2011, an increase of 37 percent from the same period in 2010.

With 12,243 users and accounts specified, the U.S. had far more requests than any other country.

Google complied with the U.S. 93 percent of the time — the highest rate of compliance the company reported as part of a regular update to its “Transparency Report.”

(But Google doesn’t always hand over data. For instance, Google complied with none of Hungary’s and Russia’s requests, though each had fewer than 100.)

Google downplayed the U.S. hunger for user data. The report said, “The increase isn’t surprising, since each year we offer more products and services, and we have a larger number of users.” Google also noted that sometimes the U.S. asks for data on behalf of other governments.

As for content removals, the U.S. government also asked for more blog posts and videos to be removed from Google and YouTube in the second half of 2011 — a total of 187 requests for 6,192 items, more than any other country.

Google noted that was up 103 percent from the year before, and said it complied with less than half of those requests.

Google said it avoided complying with requests to take down political speech when it could, for example in Spain and Poland.

The report gave some of the requests a higher level of detail, and in some cases it’s easy to see why:

“We received a request from the Passport Canada office to remove a YouTube video of a Canadian citizen urinating on his passport and flushing it down the toilet. We did not comply with this request.”

(Image courtesy of Feng Yu/Shutterstock)

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