A welcome sign of transparency by Google – and far better than most other web companies – but there’s a long way to go. For example, what are the cosy deals between Google and governments who simply don’t like certain material and want it removed from YouTube?
Google Inc. has set up a new tool to show where it’s facing the most government pressure to censor material and turn over personal information about its users.
The country-by-country breakdown released Tuesday on Google’s Web site marks the first time that the Internet search leader has provided such a detailed look at the censorship and data requests that it gets from regulators, courts and other government agencies. The figures, for the roughly 100 countries in which it operates, cover the final half of last year and will be updated every six months.
Google posted the numbers nearly a month after it began redirecting search requests to its China-based service. Those requests are now handled in Hong Kong rather than mainland China so Google wouldn’t have to obey the country’s Internet censorship laws. Google said details about the censorship demands it got while in mainland China still aren’t being shared because the information is classified as a state secret.
In other countries, Google is making more extensive disclosures about censorship demands or other government requests to edit its search results. Google is also including demands to remove material from its other services, including the YouTube video site, although it is excluding removal requests related to allegations of copyright infringement, a recurring problem for YouTube.
Google is showing how often it honored those requests and spelling out which of its services were targeted.
In the United States, for instance, it received 123 requests to remove material from its services during the last half of 2009 and complied with 80 percent of them. Reasons include violations of Google’s own policies regarding extreme violence, profanity and hate speech. More than 40 of those requests included a court order, Google said.