Google gets most requests for user data from U.S.

The search giant received 14,201 requests from 25 countries for private user information in the second half of 2010. The U.S. accounted for 32 percent of all requests.

Google's Transparency Report reveals the number of requests for user data by each country.
Google's Transparency Report reveals the number of requests for user data by each country. Google

Google received 14,201 requests from 25 countries for private user information in the second half of 2010, according to data released today in the company's Transparency Report.

Among the countries listed in the report, the U.S. accounted for 4,601 requests, of which Google complied with 94 percent. The U.S. had the most requests of any single country.

Other countries high on the list included Brazil with 1,804 user data requests, India with 1,699, and the U.K. with 1,162.

The search giant's Transparency Report is designed to shed light on the number of requests for user data that it receives from government entities, including law enforcement agencies. The report specifically cover requests for Google user account information. According to a Google FAQ, "we disclose only the information we believe we are legally required to share."

The requests "primarily" are related to "criminal investigations," Google noted. There are "likely a small number of requests that fall outside of this category. For example, we would include in the statistics an emergency request from a government public safety agency seeking information to save the life of a person who is in peril even though there is not necessarily a criminal investigation involved," Google said.

The number of requests that Google gets for user information has risen each year, according to the company--a fact that it attributes to its growing array of products and services and an increase in its number of users.

Though Google complied with most of the requests from the U.S. as well as those from other countries, it did refuse a certain percentage. The company says reviews each request and sometimes will not provide the information or try to narrow the scope of the request.

Along with requests for user data, the company also receives requests from governments, law enforcement, and federal courts to remove certain content, which is also documented in the Transparency Report.

For this data, Google breaks down the number of content removal requests, how many items were included per requests, which specific Google services were targeted, and why the requests were made.

Though the reasons sometimes vary from country to country, some requests for content removal are the result of accusations of defamation, while others are related to hate speech, pornography, impersonation, copyright, and national security, according to Google.

At the top of this list during last year's second half, the U.K. requested that a total of 93,518 items be removed, South Korea requested that 32,152 items be removed, and Brazil wanted 12,363 items taken down. The U.S. made requests for just 1,421 items.

The Google services named in these requests included Web search, Google Images, Google Groups, Google Videos, YouTube, Google AdWords, and Gmail.

Correction at 8:52 a.m. PT: The number of total requests for user data was incorrect.

 

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