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Indian Govt Made 1699 User Data Requests To Google; 79% Compliance

Update: A Google spokesperson has written back, saying that “As per the local criminal laws in India, we do not inform users of their data being shared with the authorities. As it can be seen as aiding in the destruction of evidence.”

Earlier Today: Between July and December 2010, Google received 1699 requests for disclosure of user data from the Indian government, and it complied with as much as 79% of the requests, the company has revealed as a part of its Global Transparency report. 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 sharp jump over the 1430 requests between Jan and June 2010, and 1061 between July and December 2009.

79% compliance is alarmingly high, and we’ve asked Google for a clarification on whether the users were informed by the company about their data being shared – in our opinion, ethically, that would be the right approach. 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.”

Also read: What the Home Ministry’s Communcations Monitoring Tender tells us.

Blocking & Removal of Content

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During the same period (July-December 2010), Google also received 67 requests for removal of 282 items of content, and it only complied with 22% of these requests. This is more than double of the figures reported for Jan-June 2010 – 30 requests for content removal, and 125 items removed. However, Google had then complied with 53% requests for removal. Also take into account that Google doesn’t mention any instances of requests for removal of content on Orkut.com. The reasons for removal:
– National Security: 16 items on Web Search requested for removal
– Government Criticism: 10 items on YouTube requested for removal, 1 on Blogger
– 11 for “Hate Speech”.

There’s a complete list here. Google also mentions that they “received requests from different law enforcement agencies to remove a blog and YouTube videos that were critical of Chief Ministers and senior officials of different states. We did not comply with these requests.”

When we had asked the Department of Telecom via a Right To Information request about whether they had asked for blocking of content, we had received the following information:
– During the period March 2010-March 2011, Designated Officer received 21 requests for blocking of information. 11 websites have been blocked based on the order of the court, one has been rejected. For other requests, additional input/information has been sought from the Nodal Officer.
– This Department got one court order to block a page on Facebook.com and the order has been complied with.

Perhaps we need to rephrase our questions.

In Conclusion

Clearly, the number of requests for removal and for user data is increasing. 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.

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So what’s the situation right now?

– Phones are being tapped. Access to video calls is being demanded. (read more)
– Content is being removed, both on sites and web searches. (read more)
– Access to Emails is being demanded (read more)
– Access to your exact current location is being demanded.

As a citizen, how do you feel about this?

Written By

Founder @ MediaNama. TED Fellow. Asia21 Fellow @ Asia Society. Co-founder SaveTheInternet.in and Internet Freedom Foundation. Advisory board @ CyberBRICS

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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