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Google report says government surveillance on the rise


Google is working on technology that could help combat organized crime around the world.


Justin Sullivan

With two major scandals centered around email exchanges making headlines right now, questions have been raised about the privacy of individuals on the internet. The latest report from Google is not likely to assuage any of those concerns.

Google released its Transparency Report on Tuesday, indicating that government surveillance of people's online lives is on the rise. Governments around the world made almost 21,000 requests for access to Google data in the first half of 2012, according to BBC.

"This is the sixth time we've released this data, and one trend has become clear: government surveillance is on the rise," said Google in a blogpost.

"We think it's important to shine a light on how government actions could affect our users. When we first launched the Transparency Report in early 2010, there wasn't much data out there about how governments sometimes hamper the free flow of information on the Web," said senior policy analyst at Google Dorothy Chou, according to The Los Angeles Times.

The US government made the most demands, asking for access to details 7,969 times in the first six months of 2012. British newspaper the Guardian said Google fully or partially complied with 90 percent of those requests.

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In all, governments worldwide made 20,939 requests including search results, access to Gmail accounts and removal of YouTube videos, compared to 12,539 such requests in the last six months of 2009.

Turkey led the list of governments asking for content to be removed, with 501 requests, and the US came in second with 273 requests, according to The Washington Post.

Google restricted Turkish users from accessing 63 percent of YouTube videos, which criticized the first president of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, according to the Guardian. It did not remove the content.

Google said that in total there were 1,791 requests from government officials around the world to remove 17,746 pieces of content.

The LA Times explained that Google gets more requests from the US because of the larger number of US users, and because US authorities are more familiar with the protocol for making such requests than officials in other countries.

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