Google Discloses Government Demands for User Data
The Internet giant Tuesday released data about the number of requests it has received from government agencies for data about users related to criminal investigations as well as government requests to remove content from Google's services such as its search engine or YouTube video site.
The new mapping tool also lists what percentage of the content removal requests Google complies with by country, except for China, where Google says numerating the requests would be illegal.
The tool shows that from July 1 to Dec. 31, Brazil made the most requests for user data, with 3,663. The U.S was second with 3,580. Brazil also led with 291 requests for removal of Web content, with Germany in second place and the U.S fourth, behind India. Google hosts lots of user-generated information in Brazil through its social-networking service Orkut, which is popular in the country.
A Google spokesman said the company plans to share data about what percentage of requests to turn over user information related to investigations it complies with once it figures out how to best characterize the data. The company also stressed other limitations to the data, which doesn't include countries where it receives a small amount of requests or statistics that could jeopardize important investigations.
The company also noted that a single government request may seek information on multiple users or removal of multiple pieces of Web content. The data don't include requests to remove copyrighted material, Google said.
The move comes as privacy advocates increasingly demand that Internet companies, including Google be more transparent about what they do and don't share with governments, along with what they agree to censor.
It also comes as many governments are urging Google to do more to protect user privacy. On Tuesday, a group of privacy commissioners from countries including Canada, France and the United Kingdom held a press conference to push Google to build better privacy protections into its services. The news conference followed a letter the group sent to Google Monday.
The missive scolds Google for what it describes as a range of privacy abuses, ranging from inadequate protections in its social-networking service Buzz to its procedures for retaining images it gathers for its Street View mapping services. It calls on Google to create 'privacy-protective' default settings and make it easy for people to delete their accounts, among other measures.
'We are increasingly concerned that, too often, the privacy rights of the world's citizens are being forgotten as Google rolls out new technological applications,' reads the letter, which also asks for Google to issue it a response for how it plans to meet these requirements. 'Privacy cannot be sidelined in the rush to introduce new technologies to online audiences around the world,' it states.
A Google spokesperson said Monday the company has 'discussed all these issues publicly many times before and have nothing to add to the letter.'
European authorities have been among the Internet giant's harshest critics when it comes to privacy issues, pressuring the company to shorten the time it retains search logs, for example. European governments blasted a settlement between Google, authors and publishers over digital books in part over concerns with what Google would do with users' reading records.
Criticism in the U.S has been building too. A group of lawmakers recently asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Google's roll-out of its Buzz service, which they contend exposed private information about Google users. Monday's letter also dwells on Buzz, claiming its launch 'betrayed a disappointing disregard for fundamental privacy norms and laws.'
Google at the time acknowledged it should have made some user privacy controls more prominent in Buzz and adjusted the service.
Meanwhile, Google remains on a campaign to fight back against what it sees as the growing problem of Internet censorship. In March, it stopped censoring its search engine in China, although the company continues to host some services in China.
JESSICA E. VASCELLARO
地 圖工具顯示﹐從2009年7月1日至12月31日﹐巴西索取用戶數據的次數最多﹐達到3,663次。美國索取次數為3,580次﹐位居第二。在要求刪除網 上內容的次數方面﹐巴西同樣居首﹐達到291次﹔排在後面的依次為德國、印度和美國。由於旗下網絡社交服務Orkut在巴西很受歡迎﹐谷歌在該國擁有大量 用戶自創的信息。
美 國的批評也在逐漸增多。近期多名國會議員要求聯邦貿易委員會(Federal Trade Commission)調查谷歌推出的Buzz服務﹐擔心這項服務會暴露谷歌用戶的私人信息。週一的信件也詳細論述了Buzz﹐稱這項服務的推出顯示出谷 歌漠視最根本的隱私保護規范和法律﹐令人失望。
JESSICA E. VASCELLARO