India ahead in snooping: Google

India ahead in snooping: Google

Big Brother watching

India ahead in snooping: Google

Indian government officials, who are seeking more surveillance powers, made 67 requ­ests to remove 282 conte­nti­ous items from various Google services, such as search, You Tube and Blogger between July and December 2010.

The US and UK made 54 and 38 similar requests, respectively. Defamation, privacy and pornography were some of reasons cited behind these requests. 

Google’s created Transparency Report to track the demands of the various governments to remove content or seeking information about users.  With 4,601 requests, the US topped the list in seeking user data. With 1,699 requests India came third just behind Brazil’s 1,804. The Indian requests for user data have been steadily increasing from 1,061 since July-December 2009 to 1,430 by January-June 2010.

Brazil topped the request list with 263 demands. But as Google points out its Orkut, the  social networking site, which has declined elsewhere, continues to be popular in Brazil, thus accounting for the unusually high number of requests.

Germany also made 118 requests targeting Nazi propaganda, extreme violence and pornography.

Requests go up

In India, the requests are not only high but also increasing steeply. The number of requests which stood at 30 in January-June 2010 more than doubled over the next six months. At 142, the number of requests from Indian government was much higher in the July-December 2009 period, probably because of the local popularity of Orkut, which has since ceded ground to Facebook.

Only six Indian government requests were backed by court orders and the rest were demands made by police and other executive agencies — a damning statement on the lack of judicial protection to privacy in the country.

Google is known to resist government requests, which are dubious and not in sync with the letter and spirit of the law. In India, Google said it complied with only 22 per cent of the requests, while in Germany, the compliance stood at 97 per cent.

Google said it had received requests from different agencies to remove items, in particular videos, that were critical of chief ministers and senior officials of different states.

“We did not comply with these requests,” a statement from Google said.  Indian officials have tried to controversially guard the reputation of politicians in the past as well.

Google says the requests for user account information usually come as part of criminal investigations and have increased year after year.

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