Google has been publishing transparency reports since 2010, and they released their latest update today. The report shows requests from various governments around the world to remove certain material from Youtube or Google search results, and for user information related to that material. The number of requests for user data has seen a steady rise, from 12, 539 during the period from July-December 2009, to 20,938 during the first half of 2012. And requests for the removal of information has seen a sharp spike, up approximately 70% in one six month period.
Most of the requests for removal of information were due to defamation issues, with many of those backed by court orders, but a fair number of others fall into less clear cut categories, like government criticism, religious offense or national security. Only a relatively few were due to copyright offenses.
Google has included some additional notes on these takedown requests. Defamation of government officials is a common theme, as are criticisms of police forces. Google did not comply in removal in many of these requests. You can see the notable cases, broken down by country of origin, here.
As Google rightly points out, this report of government surveillance and interference is only a small part of what is actually happening. But other sites, like Dropbox, Linkedin and Twitter are beginning to share these statistics as well, which will give us a better understanding of government interaction with the internet around the world.
You can find the Transparency Report at Google’s official Blog.