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Google: Gov’t spying spiked & Microsoft leads the pack for copyright complaints

Nov 14, 20124 mins
Data and Information SecurityMicrosoftSecurity

Surprise...actually not at all. Google said government surveillance and requests to hand over user data is on the rise worldwide. The U.S. government is the top offender.

The United States is leading the race, but in this case, it’s a very bad thing. The race is actually “government requests for disclosure of user data from Google accounts or services.” The USA comes in first in government snooping with a total of 7,969 user data requests from January to June 2012, but that was tied into 16,281 user accounts. Google complied fully or at least in some degree with 90% of these U.S. government requests. During the previous Google transparency reporting period, the U.S. government requested access to 12,243 user accounts.

Google stated, “This is the sixth time we’ve released this data, and one trend has become clear: Government surveillance is on the rise.” If you recall, in October, Justice Department documents handed over to the ACLU also confirmed this surveillance trend and showed a 64 percent growth in electronic spying since President Obama took office. Dorothy Chou, Google’s Senior Policy Analyst, also said that the “number of government requests to remove content” has “spiked in this reporting period.”

Regarding U.S. government user data requests, Google reported, “The number of requests we receive for user account information as part of criminal investigations has increased year after year. The increase isn’t surprising, since each year we offer more products and services, and we have a larger number of users.”

India’s government came in next by requesting data on 2,319 user data requests tied to 3,467 Google user accounts. Brazil, France, Germany and the United Kingdom all had over 1,000 requests, according to the Google Transparency Report.

The Mountain View giant also reported that content removal requests increased by 46% since the last reporting period. These takedown requests fall into two categories: government and copyright. Score at least one for free speech, though, because Google noted about the United States government: “We received five requests and one court order to remove seven YouTube videos for criticizing local and state government agencies, law enforcement or public officials. We did not remove content in response to these requests.”

Police in the United Kingdom also complained about “removing 14 search results for linking to sites that criticize the police and claimed individuals were involved in obscuring crime.” Google said no. The number of content removal requests from the UK jumped up “by 98% compared to the previous reporting period.” Yet this sort of complaining about allegedly badmouthing government, politicians or police also happened in China, Brazil, Australia, France, Germany, Philippines, Thailand and Turkey.

Countries that requested for Google to remove content based on allegedly violating privacy included India, Italy, France, and Monaco.

Regarding copyright removal requests within the last month, it should come as no surprise to know Microsoft is listed near the top as fourth, following (1) Froytal Services Ltd, (2) BPI Ltd Member Companies, and (3) RIAA member companies. Over every other entity, Microsoft is number one in copyright infringement complaints to Google. Microsoft averaged 134 takedown requests per week that encompass an average of 81,469 URLs weekly. In total since July 8, 2011, Microsoft has requested for Google to remove 5,469,777 URLs.

While that may not seem as important to you as the government trying to pry open and spy on Google account users, those copyright removal notices do play a part in the Google search algorithm. In August, Google started taking “into account the number of valid copyright removal notices it receives for any given site.” The change in search engine ranking, according to Google, “should help users find legitimate quality sources of content more easily.”

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ms smith

Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.