Aust govts seek more data from Google

Summary:Australian governments are steadily asking Google for more and more user data, but its success ratio is on the decline, according to Google.

Australian governments have increased their surveillance of citizens' internet usage over the past six months, according to new figures released by Google.

In the first six months of 2012, governments and their agencies made 523 requests to access Google users' data, including information contained in Gmail and YouTube accounts.

That was the ninth highest number of requests in the world over the same period, with the US recording the most (7,969); India second, with 2,319 requests; and Brazil third, with 1,566.

The figures, contained in Google's latest Transparency Report, show a steady rise in the number of requests for access from Australian governments since it first began publishing the data in July 2009.

Most of the requests in 2012 were from law-enforcement agencies for use in criminal investigations, Google said.

The company complied with 64 percent of the requests, a 1 percent fall in compliance from the previous six months. Since the beginning of reporting, this figure has steadily dropped from a high of 81 percent compliance.

"The number of requests that we receive for user account information as part of criminal investigations has increased year on year," Google said in a blog post.

"The increase isn't surprising, since each year, we offer more products and services, and we have a larger number of users."

Globally, there were 20,938 requests from governments to hand over data — a big rise on the 12,539 requests recorded in July 2009.

Australian governments also made 92 requests to remove items from Google websites, including YouTube and search engine results.

Most of the requests were made for "privacy and security" reasons, or over defamation and copyright issues.

A small number were removed for reasons of "government criticism."

Google highlighted one instance where a state government, which it did not name, asked to remove a YouTube video of "statements made against police officers."

This is a massive decline from the 640 items that governments had requested to remove in the last six months of 2011.

Federal Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has been asked to comment.

Josh Taylor contributed to this article.

Topics: Google, Government, Government : AU, Privacy

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