Between July and December 2011, Google received 2207 requests for disclosure of user data from the Indian government, and it complied with as much as 66% of the requests, the company has revealed as a part of its Global Transparency report.
User information requests
Google received requests for information for 3,427 users/accounts. The company has clarified that this might include multiple requests that ask for data for the same entity or a single request that specifies one or more entities. The company hasn’t revealed the nature of these requests or the exact nature of the data it shared, but the increase (over this six month timeframe) is a jump over the 2439 requests between January and July 2011 and 1699 requests between July and December 2010.
66% compliance is alarmingly high, and remember that a Google spokesperson had informed MediaNama, that “As per the local criminal laws in India, Google does not inform users of their data being shared with the authorities. As it can be seen as aiding in the destruction of evidence.” In our opinion, ethically, Google should inform users whose data is shared with the government agencies. On its website, Google says that the number of requests for criminal investigations increased year on year, but it clarifies that it ” didn’t necessarily include requests that were addressed to the wrong Google company. We review each request to make sure that it complies with both the spirit and the letter of the law, and we may refuse to produce information or try to narrow the request in some cases.”
Blocking & Removal of Content
During the same period (July-December 2011), Google also received 101 requests for removal of 255 items of content, and it only complied with 29% of these requests. The compliance rate has declined considerably over the six month period, as Google had complied with51% requests during the period January-July 2011, which is a good sign. The reasons of requests for removal:
- National Security: 10 items on YouTube requested for removal
- 25 for “Hate Speech”: 24 on YouTube & 1 on Orkut
- 7 for “Religious offense”: 1 on Search & 6 on YouTube
There’s a complete list here.
It’s worth noting that the number of requests under “Government Criticism” as a reason have not been mentioned this time. We’re not sure if this was due to Google not receiving such requests or the company deciding to club it under “Other” reasons.
Google had also started reporting removal requests from copyright owners and reporting organizations for removal of content or search results that link to material that infringes copyright. Google received 2 such requests from the Indian Government: 1 on search & 1 on YouTube.
Clearly, the number of requests for removal and for user data is increasing. However, it’s a good sign that Google’s compliance rate on removal requests has declined compared to the previous period. Though, the compliance rate on user data disclosure has dipped marginally, it’s still high.
Social networks such as Orkut are also being monitored. Expect the same to be extended to Twitter and Facebook. India’s Internet Control Rules will worsen the situation, and the number of requests are likely to go up. Remember that what has been listed is only the government requests: with the Internet Control Rules, Google have to entertain requests from people for removing of anything that is grossly harmful, harassing, impacting friendly relations with other nations etc. Read the details here.