Opinion: Google stats reveal Government censorship pressure

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Opinion: Google stats reveal Government censorship pressure

Google scores points for consistency.

Google's decision today to publish the number of occasions the world's Governments ask it to provide them data or pull data from YouTube, search pages and blogs is egg all over my face.

The Google Government site provides a clear indication of the pressure governments put on search giant to moderate the internet experience of citizens.

The Australian Government, Google's data revealed, asked the company to share its data on 155 occasions in the six months between July 1, 2009 and December 31, 2009.

It also requested that 17 Google sites be removed - 14 of which were YouTube clips, as well as one blog, one search result and one mapping location.

Google complied with half of these requests.

A few weeks ago I pointed to what I believed to be an inconsistent approach between Google's compliance with the United States Patriot Act and its approach internationally.

But today, as Google publishes the numbers of sites censored across 25 countries, one can hardly call the company inconsistent. Egg, as I say, all over my face.

While the all-important Chinese results are omitted - "Chinese officials consider censorship demands as State secrets," Google explained - it is clear that Google doesn't provide the United States an exclusive right to its user's data.

In the United States, where Google is hamstrung by the Patriot Act, there were 3580 requests for data over the six month period, and 123 requests to remove a site.

Google was fairly likely to act on those requests (80 percent of the time), but it showed that most of the time it took down sites due to a court order rather than a direct request from the Government.

The most controlling state was in fact Brazil, with twice as many removal requests (291) and also the highest number of requests for data (3663).

What Google's analysis won't tell us is what kind of data was sought or what kinds of sites were blocked, but the company's transparency is a giant step in the right direction - significantly - on a day that privacy advocates in ten countries called its privacy policies into question.

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