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Indian Govt Made 1739 User Data Requests To Google; Alarming 70% Compliance

Between January and June 2011, Google received 1739 requests for disclosure of user data from the Indian government, and it complied with as much as 70% of the requests, the company has revealed as a part of its Global Transparency report.

User information requests

Google received requests for information for 2,439 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 1699 requests between July and December 2010 and 1430 requests between Jan and June 2010.

70% 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

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During the same period (January-July 2011), Google also received 68 requests for removal of 358 items of content, and it only complied with 51% of these requests. The compliance rate has increased considerably over the six month period, as Google had only complied with 22% requests during the period July-December 2010, which is not a good sign. This time Google has also mentioned instances of requests for removal of content on Orkut.com. The reasons for removal:
– National Security: 1 items on Google earth & Google Maps requested for removal
– Government Criticism: 19 items on YouTube requested for removal, 236 on Orkut
– 8 for “Hate Speech”: 6 on YouTube & 2 on Orkut

There’s a complete list here. Google also mentions that they “received a request from a local law enforcement agency to remove 236 communities and profiles from orkut that were critical of a local politician.” It did not comply with these requests.

Clearly, the number of requests for removal and for user data is increasing. Also, social networks such as Orkut are 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.

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