Google has been walking a tight rope over the years as it tries to balance freedom of speech on the internet and regulations in different countries. One of the moves from Google has been the publishing of a bi annual transparency report that gives stats about content removal and user data requests from governments around the world. The latest report was published on Google’s blog this past Sunday, June 17. The numbers show a marked increase of requests from governments around the world. Interestingly, the largest increase in numbers has come from western democracies that are traditionally seen as pro-speech.
The US seems to be leading the pack with a 37% increase in requests for user data from government or law enforcement agencies. This is a jump from the 5,950 requests that were placed in the first six months of 2011 to 6,321 requests placed in the first half of this year. Google further reported that it had complied in full or partially 93% of requests.
Google has not given any specific reason for why requests from government agencies have increased. However, the company has given examples what some of the requests they receive are like. One type of request is from law enforcement agencies that ask for IP addresses of individuals from when they log in to their Google Account. This helps agents then locate a person that is usually being investigated for a crime or other offence.
The US is not the only one demanding data from Google and foreign governments have gotten in on the action too, but seen much less compliance from Google. The search giant’s report states that a total of 11,936 requests from non-US governments were made in the second half of 2011. This is a pretty decent jump from 9,600 requests in the second half of 2010 and 8,959 requests from 2009. Some analysts believe that these number do not reveal the actual increase in requests from foreign governments and agencies because a lot of user data requests come through US agencies and mask where the original request came from. Of all the requests sent from the UK, Google at least partially complied with 64%. The Germans had it worse and were able to have their requests accepted only 45% of the time. Russia and Turkey got the shortest end of the stick and had zero compliance with their requests.