There were nearly 21,000 requests made to Google from world governments to access—and delete—the data of users using its services, a dramatic increase over the past several years, the company said in its annual Transparency Report Tuesday.
Google said that government surveillance of the Internet has been steadily on the rise since the company started issuing reports on it. In all, there were 20,938 inquiries from governments around the world on information about 34,614 accounts, it said.
Between 2009 and 2011, the number of requests to remove content remained steady, and then the number spiked in the first half of 2012.
“In the first half of 2012, there were 1,791 requests from government officials around the world to remove 17,746 pieces of content,” Google said. In the same period last year between January and June, there were only 949 such requests.
At the top of the list of user data requests was the United States, with nearly 8,000 such incidents, the company said. The United States has by far the most Google users. India, Brazil, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom each had between 1,400 and 2,400 requests.
The company said, “We think it’s important to shine a light on how government actions could affect our users” because before the Transparency Report was released two years ago, “there wasn’t much data out there about how governments sometimes hamper the free flow of information on the Web.”
Many Google services in China, which has the most Internet users in the world, are blocked or heavily censored.
Google pointed out that information they disclosed in the report is merely “an isolated sliver showing how governments interact with the Internet, since for the most part we don’t know what requests are made of other technology or telecommunications companies.”
“Our hope is that over time, more data will bolster public debate about how we can best keep the Internet free and open,” it stated.
There was meteoric rise in the number of requests sent out by the Turkish government last year and this year. Google noted a 1,013 percent rise in requests from Turkey in the latest period.
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