Google Reports Rise in Western Government Requests for Censorship

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From Information Week:

Google warns that government attempts to remove online information are increasing and that some of the governments making censorship requests are Western democracies.

U.S. authorities, for example, made 6,192 requests seeking the removal of information from Google during the second half of 2011, the company said in a report published Sunday. In the first half of 2011, the U.S. government made 757 such requests.

In the U.K., authorities made 847 information removal requests during the second half of 2011, up from 333 during the first half of that year.

Google began documenting government data requests in September 2010, when it first published its Transparency Report. Prior to that, the company published data about service accessibility in China, but not elsewhere.

Google's mission to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible both pleases and vexes governments around the world. On the one hand, governments find Google's store of data irresistible as a form of surveillance; on the other hand, they resent the role Google plays in facilitating the publication of data without prior approval and making such data available via search query.

Google made its name as a champion of personal privacy in 2005 when, unlike AOL, Microsoft, or Yahoo, it resisted a Department of Justice subpoena for its store of Internet search data. The DOJ sought the information to help it uphold the 1998 Child Online Protection Act (COPA), which was ultimately ruled unconstitutional.

Since then, the pressure on Google and other companies with stores of online data has only increased. Over the weekend, Google published information about government data requests from the July to December 2011 period.

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