View Full Version : Google reveals government data requests and censorship

Magda Hassan
04-21-2010, 12:37 PM
What would also be interesting is if Google and company told us how many times they actually went along with these requests.

Google reveals government data requests and censorship

By Maggie Shiels
Technology reporter, BBC News, Silcon Valley

http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/images/47681000/jpg/_47681337_picture_11_610x362.jpg Google hopes the new tool will help "shine a light" on the issue

For the first time Google has released details about how often countries around the world ask it to hand over user data or to censor information.
Brazil tops the list with 3,663 data requests while the US made 3,580 and the UK came a distant third with 1,166.
Just last month the internet giant pulled its search engine out of China over online censorship issues.
Google said it cannot provide statistics on requests from China which are regarded as state secrets.
Brazil also made the highest number of requests to Google to remove content with 291 calls between July and December 2009. In second place was Germany with 188, India with 142 and the US with 123 requests.
The search giant has launched an online tool breaking down the figures which it hopes will be "just the first step toward increased transparency".
"The vast majority of these requests are valid and the information needed is for legitimate criminal investigations or for the removal of child pornography, " said David Drummond, Google's chief legal officer.
" We believe that greater transparency will lead to less censorship. Unless companies, governments and individuals do something, the internet we know is likely to become ever more restricted - taking choice and control away from users and putting more power in the hands of those who would limit access to information."
Google has been at the centre of a high profile battle with China over the issue of censorship. It stopped censoring results earlier this year after the Gmail accounts of users associated with human rights groups were hacked.
The company said the attacks had originated in China while the Chinese authorities denied any involvment.
Google's "government's request tool" was unveiled on the same day that Canada's privacy commissioner sent an open letter to the company regarding privacy issues.
Officials from 10 nations backed the complaint sent directly to Google boss Eric Schmidt.
The California based firm said any suggestion that their release was done to deflect from that news was "unrelated".
http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/images/47681000/jpg/_47681292_img_5307.jpg Few companies publish any sort of data about such requests

"We have been noticing a trend with these requests and working on this initiative for a long time, " Scott Rubin, a senior spokesman with the company told BBC News.
"This is really about our ongoing quest to make information accessible and we are hoping this will inspire other companies to share data and become part of the conversation people are having about the scope of these kinds of requests."
Google said it was disclosing the information "in the spirit" of principles laid out by the Global Network Initiative, a group that promotes freedom of expression online. Yahoo and Microsoft are also part of the organisation.
Google said that to date 40 governments censor information compared to just four in 2002.
"Google's numbers are not nearly as transparent as they could be," said Tom Krazit of technology news site Cnet.com.
"The tool doesn't break out the data for the number of times Google complied or refused requests for information on individuals. It does say how often - in general - it complies with takedown requests, but does not provide specifics."
Google said it is working to perfect the information and that "it will get better". The next release will be in six months' time.


David Guyatt
04-22-2010, 07:09 AM
What we need is a decent search engine operating out of Iceland to avoid these sorts of problems.

Keith Millea
05-15-2010, 04:11 PM
Published on Saturday, May 15, 2010 by The Times/UK (http://technology.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/tech_and_web/article7127478.ece) Google Admits its Street View Cars Spied on Wi-Fi Activity

by Mike Harvey

Google's Street View cars have been spying on people's internet use for three years, the search giant admitted last night. It had been scooping up snippets of people's online activities broadcast over unprotected home and business wi-fi networks.

http://www.commondreams.org/files/article_images/google-2.jpgThe logo of web giant Google. The California-based Internet firm has said it will end the collection of WiFi network information entirely by its fleet of Street View cars which have been used in over 30 nations after private data was 'mistakenly' collected from unsecure networks.(AFP/File)
Google admitted that the cars' radio antennae snooped on e-mails and other bits of information when the vehicles trundled through towns and cities. Google said that the data was collected only in short bursts as the vehicles passed by, and was never used.
The cars, which have cameras on a pole, have covered most of the towns and cities in the UK. Street View, launched in the US in 2007, provides real-world images of streets and roads that the user can manipulate, as part of Google's online mapping products.
Its launch in the UK in April last year provoked a storm of protest, when people claimed that its images would help burglars seek out where to strike and invaded home owners' privacy.
The Information Commissioner's Office this year cleared Street View of any breach of the Data Protection Act but privacy regulators have expressed concern about the service. Yesterday's confession will raise more fears about internet users' privacy and how much personal information Google collects through its search engine and other services. Google admitted: "Maintaining people's trust is crucial to everything we do, and in this case we fell short."
Google made the admission after German authorities began to examine why Google was using the cars to collect wi-fi data at all. A month ago Google said it was collecting only the name and location of local wi-fi networks - information, it argued, that was publicly available and was useful to help it improve its location services. Its data collection was much more invasive.
Internet activity such as e-mails, photos and which websites a user was looking at could have been collected by the cars. Google said that activity on secure websites, such as banking websites, could not be accessed and any activity on password-protected networks was also safe.
"We will typically have collected only fragments of payload data because our cars are on the move; someone would need to be using the network as a car passed by; and our in-car wi-fi equipment automatically changes channels roughly five times a second," Alan Eustace, senior vice-president of engineering and research for Google wrote in a blog. "It's now clear that we have been mistakenly collecting samples of payload data from open networks."
Google said it had contacted some privacy authorities in Europe and wanted to delete data. Street View cars would not collect any more wi-fi data. Experts said passwords, as well as general surfing, could have been caught in Google's dragnet.

Copyright 2010 Times Newspapers Ltd.