Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Google Transparency Report launched

The New York Times has a story today about Google's new Transparency Report. The Report - which expands on an earlier initiative - tracks government intervention on the internet and shares internal data from Google in three broad categories:

* Government inquiries for information about users;
* Government requests to remove content (both hosted content and search results); and
* Traffic flows.

In each case the data is broken down by country. In relation to the UK, for example, the map shows that for the period January-June 2010 there were:

1343 data requests
48 removal requests, for a total of 232 items; and
62.5% of removal requests were fully or partially complied with

o 1 court order to remove content
o 1 item requested to be removed

o 3 court orders to remove content
o 32 items requested to be removed

o 1 court order to remove content
o 1 items requested to be removed

Web Search
o 8 court orders to remove content
o 144 items requested to be removed

o 6 court orders to remove content
o 29 non-court order requests to remove content
o 54 items requested to be removed
There's no data given for Ireland for the same period. This may mean one of two things - either there were no Irish requests to take down information or access user information during that period, or else (probably more likely) there were so few Irish requests that Google has chosen not to reveal the statistics. For what it's worth, during the previous six month period Google indicates that there were fewer than 10 Irish government requests to remove content, of which 50% were complied with.

The traffic flow portion of the report is new and particularly interesting - by visualising the amount of data flowing to a particular country it graphically illustrates government attempts to block access to particular sites. Here, for example, is a graph of YouTube traffic to Turkey from March 2010 onwards. The abrupt drops in traffic appear to coincide with the Turkish government's ongoing attempts to block users from viewing YouTube and other Google services.

Google must be congratulated for providing this information - along with Herdict and Chilling Effects (which is also supported by Google) the information provided will be invaluable in tracking attempts to control the flow of information on the net. However, as Lilian Edwards and Christopher Soghoian have pointed out this is still only a start - greater detail as to the types of content being targeted and the legal basis for requests is necessary to make sense of the raw numbers. Perhaps in the next revision?

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