Google's latest Transparency Report shows a drop in government data removal requests
After Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the surveillance activities of the NSA, there has been greater public interest in what data governments are obtaining from technology companies, and what data was subject to censorship and removal. Back in 2010 Google started something of a trend with its first transparency report, and today sees the launch of the latest edition.
Covering the six months from July to December 2013, the latest Transparency Report shows that while there were more requests than the same period in 2012, there has been a drop when compared to the first half of 2013. In all, Google received 3,105 requests to remove 14,637 items, compared to 3,846 requests and 24,737 items in H1 2013, and 2,289 requests and 24,191 items in H2 2012.
Three products feature prominently in the report -- Blogger, Google search and YouTube. Data removal requests hit Blogger the hardest (1,068), but all three showed the same level of decline in request numbers from the previous period. The reasons for removal requests have changed slightly. There was a slight decrease in the number relating to impersonation, and the same is true for reasons of privacy and security. Defamation-related requests jumped by around 10 percent, but there was a sharp drop in the 'Other' category -- 2,359 down to 1,533.
Google's Director of Legal, Trevor Callaghan, said:
Our Transparency Report is certainly not a comprehensive view of censorship online. However, it does provide a lens on the things that governments and courts ask us to remove, underscoring the importance of transparency around the processes governing such requests. We hope that you’ll take the time to explore the new report to learn more about government removals across Google.
While not comprehensive, we are given something of a sneak peak at the types of removal requests that have been made. There was a jump in the number of requests originating from Russia, and in many cases Google complied -- including restricting access to a video that depicted self-immolation of a Buddhist monk, and blocking access to extremist material found in Google Play.
There are some interesting snippets in the Transparency Report, and you can work through all of the information online -- the site has been redesigned to be more user-friendly, so don't be put off if you've been frustrated by the report in the past.