Google has published another transparency report, showing the number of court, police and other requests for data removal that they’ve received over a six month period. The report includes a blog post and a handily-filterable chart. The results? Well, surprising or not, the United States is second only to Brazil in the number of court-ordered removal requests to Google’s offices. And whereas Google complied with 69% of Brazil’s requests, they complied with only 40% of the US requests.
On the subject of police and other requests, the United States stands in third place behind South Korea and leading the pack, India. Clearly, India has some unreasonable requests, as Google complied with only twenty percent. But they complied with 80% of S. Korea’s requests compared to a dismal 44% of the US requests.
It’s hard to get too worked up over these numbers, as we’re accepting a private company’s interpretation of law and privacy. It would also be interesting to see these same numbers normalized by population: its hard to imagine a scenario where Switzerland would make more removal requests than the United States, given the huge difference in population. There is also a potential content disparity: studies have estimated that 68% of content on the web is in English, with a large share of that coming from the United States. Mo pages, mo problems.
Still, it does make me curious just what the United States is requesting and what branches and levels of our government are making these requests. It would be easy – and misguided – to assume that the Black Helicopter crew at the NSA was secretly conducting cyber-info-warfare on the populace. But since the report does not specifically differentiate between federal and local governments, its hard to know exactly where the requests are coming from.
Like other technology and communications companies, Google regularly receives requests from government agencies and courts around the world to remove content from our services. In this report, we disclose the number of requests we receive from each government in six-month periods with certain limitations.