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Google Enumerates Government Requests 216

Posted by kdawson
from the you-asked-we-told dept.
D H NG writes "In the aftermath of Google's exit from mainland China, it had sought to be more open about what it censors. Google has launched a new tool to track the number of government requests targeted at Google and YouTube. These include both requests for data and requests to take down data. A quick look at the tool shows that Brazil is the top country in both categories (largely because Orkut is popular there), and information for China cannot be disclosed because 'Chinese officials consider censorship demands as state secrets.' As part of its four-part plan, Google hopes to change the behavior of repressive governments, establish guiding principles for dealing with issues of free expression, build support online to protest repression, and better provide resources and support for developing technology designed to combat and circumvent Internet censorship."
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Google Enumerates Government Requests

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  • Any second now. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by moogied (1175879) on Tuesday April 20, 2010 @04:24PM (#31915062)
    Queue the people explaining how this is evil because its "not enough".
    • by zill (1690130) on Tuesday April 20, 2010 @04:27PM (#31915106)
      Cue the grammar nazis too while you're at it.
    • It certainly isn't evil, but the number of requests really doesn't say a whole lot. How many were legitimate? Who exactly requested the takedown (FBI, NSA, CIA, local police, etc.)? Why was the request issued/granted? It's a step in the right direction and I hope to see them go further with it.
      • Definatly. They need to let us drill down further into the underlying data.
        • by hey (83763)

          The pretty map would be better replaced by PDFs of the actual gov't requests.

          • by omnichad (1198475)

            That would just give some people an online directory to all child porn that has been removed from Google searches.

            • Well, according to their FAQ, they treat child porn separately and do remove it anyway, independently of gov. requests.
              And thus they don't include it in these statistic.
              So if they publish requests' PDFs, the child porn will be missing anyway.

    • by HeckRuler (1369601) on Tuesday April 20, 2010 @05:06PM (#31915636)
      F that. This is a fantastically move by Google. Open minded and forward thinking, this is the direction that I want the world to go in.

      Three Cheers!

      HIP HIP...
  • by voidptr (609) on Tuesday April 20, 2010 @04:24PM (#31915064) Homepage Journal

    So if Google's already shown if a state considers that information a state secret they'll recind publishing it, who wants to bet there will be a bill in Congress by tomorrow classifying it in the states too?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      How many bills in Congress were passed because the Russians were doing it during the Cold War?

      I don't think that'll happen, IMO.

      • Indeed, we can just imagine the public uproar.
        All tabloids are just waiting for something like this to happen so they can plaster "USA following China's opressive steps !!!" everywhere.

        (And several Godwin points to be awarded in the following discussion ;-) )

    • That wouldn't have much effect: due to the First Amendment, it's not actually illegal for third parties to republish classified information. It is a crime to leak it in the first place (so e.g. if you're a CIA officer and start mailing out documents, you can go to jail), but not to publish if you somehow get a hold of it [wikipedia.org]. So making it classified information wouldn't prevent Google from publishing their own statistics.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by corbettw (214229)

        But it is illegal to violate a court's gag order. So watch as a new, automatic, clause is inserted in every single warrant to access Google's systems going forward. Something to the effect of establishing a gag order on the recipient of the warrant.

  • Go Canada! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Tuesday April 20, 2010 @04:25PM (#31915076) Journal

    Now I have something else to distinguish myself from our brothers to the south besides a ridiculous accent and a distinct smell of maple syrup!

    • Re:Go Canada! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by MrWiggum (910429) on Tuesday April 20, 2010 @04:42PM (#31915328)
      To bad those numbers aren't per capita. If you consider that the population of the United States is roughly 9 times that of Canada. Then Canada has more removal requests per capita.
    • Re:Go Canada! (Score:4, Interesting)

      by gangien (151940) on Tuesday April 20, 2010 @04:48PM (#31915420) Homepage

      on a more serious note, Canada's population is 10% of the US. Coincidentally, the number of requests is about 10% of the US's.

      • by gangien (151940)

        i should say for the removal requests, the data requests, is way more for the US, which is kind of scary

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by chappers1 (1715080)
          Surely population and removal requests are not linked? A repressive government would want to remove more results irrespective of how many citizens it is repressing.
          • by Imrik (148191)

            A repressive government will want more results removed, but so will a government with more google users.

      • Thats what makes Canada such a great place. I can drive for 3 hours in any given direction and not hit another city with a population over 2000.

        Makes for great vacationing.

        • by AuMatar (183847)

          Funny. When I go on a vacation I look for culture, history, local entertainment, new experiences. 3 hours of nothingness sounds like the exact opposite of what I'd want.

          • by ajrs (186276)

            Funny. When I go on a vacation I look for culture, history, local entertainment, new experiences. 3 hours of nothingness sounds like the exact opposite of what I'd want.

            Oh, you have to drive 4 hours for that

          • I wouldn't consider the Culture, history, and local entertainment of your hometown a real vacation though.

            What I mean is, when I want to get away from the city - I don't have to leave the state.

            • What exactly is your frame of reference here? Basically every state in the US has rural areas, even the smallest ones like Rhode Island and Delaware. The big ones like Montana and Texas are demographically similar to the way you're describing Canada, tons of small towns separated by miles and miles of sparsely populated land.
        • by Urban Garlic (447282) on Tuesday April 20, 2010 @05:18PM (#31915790)

          > I can drive for 3 hours in any given direction and not hit another city with a population over 2000

          I used to have a car like that...

    • You also have better beer, an obsession with some bizarre game that involves using a broom on ice, and the penchant for putting gravy on fries. ;)
  • And tell them where they can put their "state secrets". Maybe if they disclose all their "requests", they'll stop making them.. But no... appeasement is the word of the day.

    • by trapnest (1608791)
      Yeah let's release everything google knows the Chinese government has been doing so google's (former) employees get imprisoned, or worse.
  • Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MrTripps (1306469) on Tuesday April 20, 2010 @04:26PM (#31915098)
    So why can't Google tell China to go pound sand and post them anyway? They can always blame it on some anonymous hacker, say the data was found in a bar, or just slip it to Wiki Leaks.
  • Request vs Demand (Score:4, Interesting)

    by chill (34294) on Tuesday April 20, 2010 @04:28PM (#31915126) Journal

    What they DON'T show -- and I've sent feedback asking for -- is how many of these are legal demands, such as warrants or court orders, versus informal requests.

    For anyone else interested in requesting the same info, here is the link: http://www.google.com/support/websearch/bin/request.py?contact_type=privacy&ctx=contactpolicy [google.com]

    • Re:Request vs Demand (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Animaether (411575) on Tuesday April 20, 2010 @04:37PM (#31915264) Journal

      Some of the "we complied with this 'request'" bits - for data removal, they don't show stats on information requests at this time - do show "(court order)", though.

      Which of course has me curious.. which Google Video item was removed by court order from the U.S. government?

      • by trapnest (1608791)
        A court order doesn't mean that it was Google vs "The Government" It could be a court ordered removal of a video depicting trade secrets or such. (I think.)
        • I suppose that could be the case...

          The site is supposed to list Government requests - which would imply that it was a 'vs The Govt' type thing.

          But if you count -any- court order, even those resulting from cases brought before the court by non-government entities, as being a government-issued order (as the courts are part of the government).. then sure. That would certainly skew the statistics.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      What they DON'T show -- and I've sent feedback asking for -- is how many of these are legal demands, such as warrants or court orders, versus informal requests.

      It looks to me like all the ones that are court orders have "court order" in parenthesis after the listing. So for Canada (as an example) there were 16 removal requests, two of which were court ordered.

  • by sznupi (719324) on Tuesday April 20, 2010 @04:31PM (#31915166) Homepage

    I don't think Orwell saw that one coming...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by beta21 (88000)
      Maybe Huxley was closer to the mark.
    • by megrims (839585)

      Really? Is it possible for a profit motivated organisation to be benign?

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by osu-neko (2604)

        Really? Is it possible for a profit motivated organisation to be benign?

        It's as possible as it is for any human organization to be benign. (You can take that as a yes or a no, depending...)

        • by megrims (839585)

          I'd suspect that it's a smaller subset of possibility than the answer to your question:

          And even if it's possible for people to be benign, how about a group of people organised for a non-benign purpose?

          I'd say it's possible, but only when it suits their primary interest. And I sure as hell wouldn't trust it.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Really? Is it possible for a profit motivated organisation to be benign?

        If you buy a burger for lunch, do you consider the seller of the burger to be malign? Even though they probably turned up to either make a paycheck or profit rather than an altruistic desire to feed you that day? It is the normal course of most people's day to provide a good or service in order to make gain, whether they provide it to an employer or to the general public. It is generally considered the most likely way to persuade others to give you money is to provide some sort of value. Unless you can get

        • by megrims (839585)

          Do you give the burger seller more power over you than necessary? Are you willing to be the burger seller's product?

          I have no problem with the concept of business. What worries me is businesses who gain power over governments while maintaining their for-profit motivations. As a motivation, for-profit isn't inherently malign, but it certainly is non-benign. As far as I can tell, nobody's even pretending that corporate motivations are benign, but we tend to lose sight of that when discussing the merits of the

    • by steelfood (895457)

      Big brother is only as transparent and benign as he/it wants to be.

      Benevolent dictatorship is still dictatorship. The vassals are still subject to the whims of the master.

    • by gmuslera (3436)
      I would be very afraid that the one that wrote about that brother (in a figurative form) were Daniel Keyes. How much smart/good could get google till falling into dumb/evilness?
  • I guess we can't have a completely free internet (Google self censors); however Google does work to have a mostly free internet except for where the majority of the worlds population would agree with them. If you are in a minority that believes Child Porn is OK and Hate speech is OK then you're out of luck. Other than that Google does seem to push back against the authority. I just hope they don't start self censoring morally ambiguous activities like sex and drugs.

    The FAQ is interesting. [google.com] The majority
    • by Aladrin (926209) on Tuesday April 20, 2010 @04:35PM (#31915222)

      "I guess we can't have a completely free internet (Google self censors);

      You're free to post anything you want on your site, within the laws of your country. Move to the right country and you're totally free to post anything.

      Google is also free to -not- post things to their site that they don't want to.

      Sounds like it's 'completely free' to me.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      If you are in a minority that believes Child Porn is OK and Hate speech is OK...

      I don't believe those things are OK, but I do know that censorship is much worse. Find another way to deal with the problem..

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by agm (467017)

        Speech of any kind should be ok. Speech never harms anyone - actions do. The state (of any nation) has no business limiting any speech, unless it is slanderous.

        • by trapnest (1608791)
          Agreed 100%. The second we give the government the authority to censor "hate" speech, we've given them the tools to take away our ability to talk about anything.
      • Pornography (child-involved and otherwise) is often the excuse governments use for politically-based censorship. In fact pornography is exactly the Chinese excuse for censoring the Internet!
  • pleasantly surprised (Score:4, Interesting)

    by circletimessquare (444983) <circletimessquare AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday April 20, 2010 @04:35PM (#31915216) Homepage Journal

    google could have so easily gone the traditional "sacrifice all your values for the pursuit of money route", but they actually showed they have principles and a backbone

    google, you've earned my loyalty and respect. integrity: what a rare and wonderful concept

    as for china considering censorship requests to be state secrets: well of course it does. just like the church of scientology considers its sacred texts to be intellectual property. i mean, if you're going to be a controlling asshole, at least be true to the concept to the inevitable extreme of absurdity, right?

    wikileaks: get that list of censorship requests. google, give that list up: you've already burned your bridges

    oh, and btw: fuck you censorial controlling assholes. you are clearly on the losing side of history. i look forward to your inevitable demise

     

    • by AndrewNeo (979708)

      I think you got "intellectual property" and "sacred texts" mixed up there.

      • scientology did

        no seriously, they consider their sacred text to be intellectual property you can't view without their permission (because they charge their members hundreds of thousands to view it)

        i'm not joking, they really do this, and what blows my mind is that there are suckers out there who do work years of their lives to find out details of a bad sci fi story

    • by grcumb (781340)

      google could have so easily gone the traditional "sacrifice all your values for the pursuit of money route", but they actually showed they have principles and a backbone.

      It just occurred to me that I haven't heard the old chestnut, "Honesty is the best policy" in years - possibly a decade.

      It's a succinct, pragmatic statement, formal in nature, and it fits nicely with solid business practice. Too bad the majority of managers in the corporate world are too clever to understand it.

  • Like why they were taken down...
    Blogs taken down because of slander or libel.
    Add taken off because of false advertising
    Search terms that are using in pedophile.

    I would like to see why they were down more then how much was taken down. I want to know what is being censored not how much we are censoring it.

  • by blair1q (305137) on Tuesday April 20, 2010 @04:45PM (#31915366) Journal

    One day, possibly not long from now, we're going to see China freed from the dictatorial, self-serving government Mao imposed on it.

    That's going to be a pretty good day.

    • As of reading this comment, it is modded funny. Such a judgment stands as a true testament to the embittered, jaded, and all around Schadenfreude sense of humor that folks have today. =)
      • Schadenfreude moderation? Perhaps. Personally, I think it's funny for the same reason the following is funny:

        I bet a fun thing would be to go way back in time to where there was going to be an eclipse and tell the cave men, "If I have come to destroy you, may the sun be blotted out from the sky." Just then the eclipse would start, and they'd probably try to kill you or something, but then you could explain about the rotation of the moon and all, and everyone would get a good laugh.

        Jack Handy

        It's just too

  • Brazil (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 20, 2010 @04:45PM (#31915368)

    A quick look at the tool shows that Brazil is the top country in both categories (largely because Orkut is popular there)

    The reason Brazil is the top country is not only due to Orkut's popularity, but because many Brazilian laws were designed to limit freedom of speech and free enterprise. Anyone remember this [slashdot.org]?

    A significant part of these government requests is probably tied to lawsuits involving Adwords. In the past, companies have been sued and found guilty for using their competitors' names as keywords in Adwords, for example. This practice is perfectly legal in most countries, including the US.

    I wonder if Google can make this popular enough to pressure countries into changing their laws.

    • by vbraga (228124)

      Anonymity is also illegal under Brazilian law.

      Although in a better shape now, the country still shows a lot of marks from it's dictatorial past.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by acid06 (917409)

        Yes, I forgot to mention this in my previous reply.

        I personally think it's very "amusing" to read the law where it says that freedom of expression is guaranteed but anonomity is forbidden. No anonimity boils down to no freedom of expression, because your freedom is limited by whatever the judge's interpretation of the law is.

        Again, I really wish all these issues are brought to light by someone. Maybe Brazil is next in Google's crusade against censorship?

        I imagine their actions could potentially be more succ

        • by vbraga (228124)

          As bad as it is, our government is probably in better shape than China's.

          Is it? A former guerrilla leader running for President is very scary.

          There's no really democratic and libertarian option in the Brazilian politics. The only option is the left.

          As stated by Tom Jobim, Brazilian musician, "as duas saídas do Brasil são Galeão ou Cumbica" :)

    • by gmuslera (3436)
      If you start to put countries laws into game, some interesting things could happen. What about content blocked becuase break some particular country patents/copyright/trademark laws? Would that put pressure in countries to change IP laws?

      What about showing nudity? And that, without even touching what one country or another could consider child porn, or forbidden practices by religion and/or law that could look innocent to you, dont know, like pork eating.not using veil or drawing Muhammad.

      And what if is l
  • by TheSpoom (715771) <slashdot@ube r m 0 0 . net> on Tuesday April 20, 2010 @04:45PM (#31915378) Homepage Journal

    Without China, other governments will get the same idea, and the tool becomes completely useless. C'mon Google, grow some balls.

  • by acid06 (917409) on Tuesday April 20, 2010 @04:47PM (#31915402)

    As a Brazilian, I'm glad this exposes a situation which isn't usually discussed but should be given more attention now that Brazil is trying to gain additional worldwide relevance (through G20 and all that).

    Brazilian courts have been extremely unreasonable and have forced Google to hand over private information and take down pages without much fanfare. Even though none of the data is actually hosted in Brazil, the courts have fined and threatened to fine Google several times because of this.

    In Brazil, service providers have liability for their users actions and there are laws protecting the "private image" of individuals (even celebrities). In effect, paparazzi can be sued around here. Journalists can be sued and bloggers aren't considered journalists. Writing a story denouncing a politician can get you a lawsuit.

    All this mess accounts for a lot of these requests. Google isn't being evil, but I wish there was more international pressure against the Brazilian government.

    • by vbraga (228124) on Tuesday April 20, 2010 @05:00PM (#31915572) Journal

      Writing a story denouncing a politician can get you a lawsuit.

      More likely, it will get you a lawsuit for libel.

      Brazilian law is very repressive. It's ranked as "Partly Free" by the Freedom House on its Map of Press Freedom [freedomhouse.org].

      Unfortunately, public awareness for this kind of issue is very low.

    • And I hope Brazil's modernization goes well. The whole biofuel thing certainly raised interest outside of Brazil.
    • by shird (566377)

      Most of those requests are for orkurt (about 200). Orkurt is really only big in Brazil... so if you exclude those, the numbers are pretty similar to every other country.

  • If Google pulls out and leaves China, what happens? I really don’t know. Are there Chinese people currently employed by Google? I suppose. Would they be in legal trouble if Google ditched them and left? They might. But I blame the Chinese government, not Google. It is not Google’s job to protect its Chinese employees from the tyranny of their own government. It is the Chinese people’s job to do that, and maybe if things get bad enough they’ll wake up and see this. And if things get R

    • You're on the right track when you say, "Google is a company, not a country." But when you turn around and say, "We don’t negotiate with terrorists," it seems like you're missing your own point. It is not for Google to ape US foreign policy or some kind of pseudo-national corporate sovereignty. Google must think about its employees in China because Google is not a government.

      If something Google does results in its employees' imprisonment then a) that undermines the faith that Google employees place
    • by znerk (1162519)

      Alternatively, fire all the Chinese employees for being "economically unviable", pull out of China, and publish a list of all of the Chinese employees (and their current status) so that when they start having "accidents", people notice. Follow that action with publishing all the crap that China doesn't want Google to publish, and making a global laughingstock of the Chinese government (not to mention potential international outrage and/or human rights investigations at what was being censored).

      It would suck

      • You really think that China is going to care who knows that they would imprison ex-Google employees for exposing state secrets? China WANTS people to know, especially their own citizens. It's called 'deterrence'.

        Oh and the term you were looking for here is 'gwailo' (or 'gweilo') not 'gaijin'.
      • by trapnest (1608791)
        Gaijin is Japanese, baka.
  • I've seen the movie Brazil [imdb.com] and I know what it's like there! Also interesting that in terms of information requests, USA is a very close second.
  • Israel has surprisingly few requests overall - 30 data and 10 removal requests - that's less than e.g. Canada on both counts! I would have expected that them to be be much more prolific with data requests, given their circumstances. I mean, it's a state for which "war on terror" is not an imaginary thing to scare voters into submission, but a very real part of day-to-day-life.

    However, what's really weird is that only 20% of removal requests were complied with - and it seems to be the lowest figure overall (

  • As I read the blog post, I kept wondering, what if Google did this for corporate requests as well? Information on the number of, say, DMCA take-down requests that the highest requesting corporations or individuals have made would be cool to see. So would the number of successful counter-requests. They could include information from other countries too, if they have a similar system.

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