US Gov. Asks Google for User Info 4,287 Times in H1 2010

by Matt Forcey

It’s no North Korea, but the US government did ask Google for user information 4,287 times during the first half of 2010, and requested that 678 websites be removed.

The online giant has released a new feature called the Transparency Report, showing how internet censorship differs from country to country—and according to a Google employee cited in a CNN report, censorship is on the rise. And of all the countries analyzed in the report, the US has practiced online censorship the most.

“The threat to internet freedom has actually been growing over the past few years,” Google policy analyst Dorothy Chou told CNN.

Users can navigate the interactive map provided in the Transparency Report, highlighting each nation to view how many times it requested Google to block or remove certain content.

For example, Google received 54 requests from the UK to remove content hosted on YouTube, one of the online company’s properties.

But the actual number of sites blocked by Google exceeds the figure shown on the Transparency Report. Some removal requests don’t need a court order if it violates local law, said Google. And the report does not include “content removals that we regularly process every day across our products”, the company said.

We can’t help but suspect this is a reiteration of Google’s famous “Don’t be evil” motto, one that has come under fire recently after the whole net neutrality brouhaha.

And David Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer wrote in the company blog: “Free expression is one of our core values. We believe that more information means more choice, more freedom and ultimately more power for the individual.

“Free expression is, of course, also at the heart of Google’s business,” he continued. “We hope this step toward greater transparency—and these tools—will help in ongoing discussions about the free flow of information.”

The BBC said that the tool will prove “invaluable” to civil liberty groups and activists determined to chart government censorship across the globe.

“I think it is a tremendous initiative and it would be helpful if other networks could do the same thing,” professor of internet law at the University of Sheffield told the BBC.

It’s a noble feat, uncovering some of the lesser-known facts about internet censorship, and it should underscore Google’s protocol: that the internet should be kept ‘free’.

Via DesignTaxi

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