Ever wondered how often governments -- including your own -- tried to get information about users from Google? Now you can find out. And the results may surprise you.
The Mountain View, Calif. company started issuing its Government Transparency Report last year, and reissues it every six months -- the only major vendor to do so, which has led some to criticize vendors such as Twitter and Facebook for not doing the same.
Each time, Google adds more data about the requests it receives. This report is no exception.
"[W]e’re not only disclosing the number of requests for user data, but we’re showing the number of users or accounts that are specified in those requests too," wrote Dorothy Chou, Senior Policy Analyst in the Google Public Policy blog entry about the most recent report.
Data Google provides includes a number of listings by country, including content removal requests, a map, observations over time about the requests Google receives, traffic reports by date, downloadable raw data in .csv form, and a FAQ about the data, as well as a list of changes Google has made to the report over time.
The biggest offender? The U.S. government. "The new data reveal that Google receives more requests in six months from U.S. law enforcement agencies than all of the wiretaps orders issued nationwide in a single year, privacy and surveillance researcher Christopher Soghoian pointed out to me in an email," writes Nick Judd for Tech President. "The Electronic Privacy Information Center reported that in 2010, federal and state courts issued 3,194 orders for the interception of wire, oral, or electronic communications — up 34 percent from 2009, per EPIC. (Only 26 percent of intercepted communications in 2010 were incriminating.) Google, meanwhile, received 4,601 requests for disclosure of user data from July to December 2010 alone."
The goal behind Google's reports? To encourage the U.S. government to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which Google and others say is outdated and doesn't reflect today's technologies and the way people use the Internet -- an effort Google calls Digital Due Process and which is reportedly underway under the leadership of Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT).