Last week, Google released a list of governments that had requested various forms of private information from the search giant’s own data bases, and demands made by these governments to censor its applications or remove certain content.
Google said it disclosed the information in order to reveal an increasing trend by governments to block information on the Web. More than 40 governments censored Google-associated information in 2009, compared with just 4 in 2002.
“We at Google believe that greater transparency will lead to less censorship online,” David Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer told the Washington Post.
According to Google, Brazil and the US made the most requests. During the second half of 2009, these countries made more than 3,000 requests, particularly concerning YouTube and Orkut (a social networking site that is popular in Brazil).
Germany was also near the top of the list. Most of that government’s requests concerned removing pro-Nazi material, according to the company.
Google’s figures are a bit difficult to interpret since Google counts a request to take down one Web address the same way as a request to remove hundreds of sites.
Google stated that many requests by governments seemed legitimate. Law enforcement agencies, for example, often request the removal of child porn sites or videos promoting violence or racial hatred.
Of note, Google’s disclosure included no information about China because, it said, China looks at “censorship demands as state secrets, so we cannot disclose that information at this time.” China is known to have erected firewalls that prevent its citizens from accessing certain information, and other technological barricades that prevent certain users from communicating with others.
Google’s report was not obviously related to its decision last month to pull its search business out of China.