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Government Surveillance Growing, According To Google 105

SternisheFan writes with news that Google has updated is Transparency Report for the sixth time, and the big takeaway this time around is a significant increase in government surveillance. From the article: "In a blog post, Google senior policy analyst Dorothy Chou says, ' [G]overnment demands for user data have increased steadily since we first launched the Transparency Report.' In the first half of 2012, the period covered in the report, Chou says there were 20,938 inquiries from government organizations for information about 34,614 Google-related accounts. Google has a long history of pushing back against governmental demands for data, going back at least to its refusal to turn over search data to the Department of Justice in 2005. Many other companies have chosen to cooperate with government requests rather than question or oppose them, but Chou notes that in the past year, companies like Dropbox, LinkedIn, and Twitter have begun making government information requests public, to inform the discussion about Internet freedom and its limits. According to the report, the U.S. continues to make the most requests for user data, 7,969 in the first six months of the year. Google complied with 90% of these requests. Google's average compliance rate for the 31 countries listed in the report is about 47%."
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Government Surveillance Growing, According To Google

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @06:47PM (#41974771)

    They don't like competition.

  • by heypete ( 60671 ) <> on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @06:50PM (#41974805) Homepage

    More and more of people's lives take place on the internet.

    Things that used to be ephemeral (telephone calls, letters, etc.) are becoming long-lived (emails, social networking posts, instant messages, etc.) and are useful investigative toosl.

    Previously the police needed to get telephone records and then analyze the calling records to form connections. With social networks like Facebook, people do it for them.

    Can the authorities abuse their position of power for various nefarious deeds? Absolutely. Are some of their requests legally or ethically dubious? No doubt. Nevertheless, there's plenty of legitimate reasons for governments to request user information and it should come as no surprise that the number of such requests is increasing.

    That said, it's nice to see that major players like Google are quantifying the requests and the reasons behind them, as well as pushing back against such demands.

    • I'd like to see more of the other big information collectors volunteer this same information, and even better, push back against them and demand a warrant, as they should. You see most people here slinging anti-Google FUD, and they're the *best* of the bunch (although still demanding warrants as they should).

    • Can the authorities abuse their position of power for various nefarious deeds? Absolutely. Are some of their requests legally or ethically dubious? No doubt. Nevertheless, there's plenty of legitimate reasons for governments to request user information and it should come as no surprise that the number of such requests is increasing.

      The problem with "legitimate" requests begins when they become so routine that they end up as fishing expeditions rather than legitimate criminal investigations.

  • by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <> on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @06:55PM (#41974857)

    What did Google expect? That government wouldn't see that social networking sites and Google's press for personal information would be an attractive target?

    After all, what once required actually boots hitting the ground, gathering of data, and correllating it together can be fulfilled with a simple, easy and no-fuss request to Google and the like, why wouldn't the government do that? It's cheaper, easier, and faster. And Google keeps demanding more information from you, making it even MORE tempting for government.

    Of course, it's not like Google can do anything about it - they depend on knowing lots about you to begin with in order to pay the bills.

    • by BMOC ( 2478408 )

      I remember the days when my friends laughed at me for never starting a facebook page. I kept telling them that what they were doing by putting their entire lives on a single company's database was no different than handing it to any 3-letter agency. They thought I was crazy/paranoid/backwards. Of course they usually thought this as I was fixing their computer for them.

      Now the damage is done. It's highly likely that elections are being won with the volunteered information and raw database-crunching power a

    • Google has done more to damage online anonymity than any other entity, commercial or otherwise. They force you to create real name accounts whenever they can get away with doing so and call it an 'identity service'. They want your real world contact info to create any account with them, then consolidate all those accounts and then they drive the other services (who don't yet do it) out of business. When the government comes with a warrant, they just hand the data over. Anonymity is the last line of defense
  • Google Should Know (Score:3, Insightful)

    by boudie2 ( 1134233 ) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @06:58PM (#41974889)
    Whatever happened to "Don't be evil"? And how many tens of thousands of enquiries from "government agencies" does one have to receive before one is not acting as a subject but rather as an arm of that same government. And, at what point do people have to say "enough"?
    • The real question is whether or not Google waits for a warrant before they give out information.
      • by BMOC ( 2478408 ) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @07:31PM (#41975243)
        Thanks to Bush and Obama for their secret interpretations of various parts of FISA + Patriot Act, the answer is likely no.
        • So in other words, this is a government problem not a Google problem.
          • So in other words, this is a government problem not a Google problem.

            Yes and no. The government wouldn't be so interested in google if their surveilance model weren't so similar to google's business model - centralized collection of as much data as possible for data mining purposes.

            In google's defense, their publication of this information is about the best we can hope for from them to counter what are practically secret fishing expeditions, short of them using their lobbyists to convince congress to reign in the DOJ/DHS.

      • by green1 ( 322787 )

        Considering the number of laws these days that specifically avoid warrants, I doubt they even have much choice anymore. The best thing they can do really is what you see here, making sure as many people as possible know about it. On a side note, i love how they handle DMCA takedown requests on their search results, you click on the link at the bottom of the page, and it gives you a list of links that someone wanted removed. It's brilliant!

    • by Nexion ( 1064 )

      Google can no longer claim that slogan. They gave it up when challenged by Yahoo and a few others.

    • I so agree. I don't know who originally said this quote, but it's apt.

      "Democracy does not come from governments. Democracy comes from the people."

    • Google represents a small chunk of data collection though. Facebook, ISP's, cell and landline companies, EZ pass tolls, credit agencies, Microsoft, Apple,'s a long list. At least Google is transparent about what information is being collected, what it's used for, and how it's accessed. That's kind of unique in this post-9/11 age, and I think that supports their "Don't be evil" mantra.
  • War is Peace
    Freedom is Slavery
    Ignorance is Strength

  • by koan ( 80826 )

    Is there anywhere that I can see exactly whose records were requested? Or is it all done in bulk?

    • You won't know until you get a call or worse a visit from the Feds. Ask a certain ex-CIA director. I know it's evil to be spied on by somebody else but your neighbor, but just imagine the civil rights uproar that would arise should the list be made public.
  • Street view, drones(they are starting this in Texas), TSA, mobile devices, GPS, facial recognition and most everyone is on that database now.

    *checks tinfoil hat placement*
  • by Anonymous Coward

    For government information requests, Google should also send a copy of the request and the response to the user.

    • by green1 ( 322787 )

      Often this would land them in pretty big trouble, many of these laws have provisions against this.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'm certain that the old saying, they attack because they envy our freedoms still apply. I'm certain the middle eastern people's wouldn't feel at home in the "freedom loving" country USA.

    I'm only pissed off because these stupid ideas and police state tactics, laws and such are being exported from USA to Europe so that they can comply with USG requests and of course to fill their envy quota of power grabbing from the people. USA is today, is a black hole, sucking away the light.

  • who the fu& is paying for it?

  • Wow, that's quite a spike in user content take down requests in the six months leading up to a major election! I wonder if this will repeat in 2016? My bet is that they will start auto-generating background noise requests in order to render Google's reports useless to the public. Some of those randomly selected users are going to be seriously baffled!
  • And they gotta make sure us little pissant subjects don't revolt, or drink a Big Gulp.

  • by Zigg ( 64962 ) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @08:22PM (#41975691)
    When you consider that they recently patented finding people likely to be evildoers based on their social connections, well... []
  • As long as they are taking down the likes of Petraeus and now maybe General Allen, I'm fine with it.

    Not that I'm being judgmental about a bit of hanky-panky. But them that lives by the sword, dies by the sword.

  • Perhaps a merger is on the cards?

"You can have my Unix system when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers." -- Cal Keegan