Government’s online surveillance on the rise

India made 2,319 requests related to 3,467 user accounts in Jan-June, the second highest in the world
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First Published: Wed, Nov 14 2012. 01 44 PM IST
The US had the most user-data requests at nearly 8,000, up 26% from the previous period. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint
The US had the most user-data requests at nearly 8,000, up 26% from the previous period. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint
Updated: Thu, Nov 15 2012. 11 47 AM IST
San Francisco: India made the second highest number of requests for user data from Google Inc., an indication of the government’s efforts to track the online activity of individuals.
The Indian government made 2,319 requests related to 3,467 user accounts between January and June, Google said in its Transparency Report, and the owner of the world’s largest search engine complied fully or partially with 64% of them.
The number marks a 33% increase in requests compared with the same period last year and a 5% increase against the preceding six months.
India made 2,207 requests related to 3,427 accounts in the previous six months—between July and December 2011—and 1,739 requests concerning 2,439 accounts between January and June 2011.
The US had the most user data requests at nearly 8,000, up 26% from the previous period. Brazil was third with 1,566 requests.
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India also made 84 requests regarding 596 items to remove content from Google’s search results and other services in the six months to June. The corresponding numbers for January-June 2011 were 68 and 360, respectively. For July-December 2011, they were 101 and 255. The 596 items were removed in response to a total of 20 court orders and around 60 requests from other agencies, including the police.
Google said in its report that 360 search results pertained to adult videos that violated an individual’s privacy and were removed in response to court orders; 120 were removed because they were considered to be defamatory (in response to court orders and other requests); and 75 were removed for being offensive to a religion.
The Internet firm said government requests to remove content from its search results and other services rose 71% in the first half of the year, according to its Transparency Report.
The company said there were 1,791 requests in the six months through June, up from 1,048 during the last six months of 2011. Turkey’s government made 501 requests to remove content, up from 45 in the previous period, while the US followed with 273, up from 187.
Google is under scrutiny from companies and governments around the world over the type of content it shows. Some countries are being more aggressive in seeking content removal from search results and sites such as video-sharing service YouTube. While the company may receive such requests, Google may choose not to comply, the report said.
“We think it’s important to shine a light on how government actions could affect our users,” Dorothy Chou, a senior policy analyst at Google, said in the report. “The number of government requests to remove content from our services was largely flat from 2009 to 2011. But it’s spiked in this reporting period.”
In Turkey, the firm received requests to take down content related to alleged criticism of the government, national identity and the republic’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, according to the report. Google also received petitions concerning blogs discussing minority independence and those that disclose details about the private lives of politicians. Turkey has in the past taken action against Google’s YouTube and Internet service providers for such content.
In Germany, Google complied with a court order to remove eight search results that linked to sites allegedly defaming a politician’s wife. In France, it removed search results that allegedly violated an individual’s privacy because of a court order, it said. Germany made 247 requests to remove content, up from 103, and France made 72, up from 31. Bloomberg
A Mint staff writer in New Delhi contributed to this story.
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First Published: Wed, Nov 14 2012. 01 44 PM IST
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