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Google Reports Spike in Government Surveillance

photo of Josh Smith
November 13, 2012

"This is the sixth time we’ve released this data, and one trend has become clear: Government surveillance is on the rise," Google policy analyst Dorothy Chou wrote in a blog post.

One metric that didn't rise was Google's compliance rate. Last year the company said in complied with 93 percent of U.S. government requests; so far this year Google has complied with 90 percent of those requests.

"Like all law-abiding companies, we comply with valid legal requests," a Google spokeswoman said in an e-mail. "We take user privacy very seriously, and whenever we receive a request we make sure it meets both the letter and spirit of the law before complying. Generally speaking, that means a request must be in writing, signed by an authorized official of the requesting agency, and issued under an appropriate law. If we believe a request is overly broad, we will seek to narrow it."

Google also reported a spike in the number of demands for content removal. 

Worldwide, governments asked Google to remove content 1,791 times in the first six months of 2012. That's up from 949 requests during the same period in 2011.

In the United States, government entitities, including courts and law enforcement agencies, submitted 273 requests in the first part of 2012. Google says it complied with roughly 45 percent of those orders.

For example, Google refused to remove seven YouTube videos that were seen as critical of local and state agencies or officials. In other cases, Google complied with portions of requests but did not remove all of the content.

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