Google: Gov't data removal requests dipped slightly over 2013

The top three Google products cited in data removal requests from federal agencies came down to Blogger, Search and YouTube.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

Google's latest transparency report is catching eyeballs for a number of reasons, but most obviously thanks to a spruced-up, simplified look.

The latest edition, which actually covers the second half of 2013 between July and December, also offers a few new metrics and qualifiers possibly included thanks to the heightened awareness of and interest in data surveillance by government agencies.

In what might be a shock to some, Google reported that the number of data removal requests actually declined (albeit slightly) over 2013 from 3,846 during the first half of the year to 3,105 requests, which actually demanded the removal of 14,637 pieces of content.

Google legal director Trevor Callaghan explained in a blog post on Monday that the earlier spike was due to "requests from Turkey during that period, which has since returned to lower levels."

Nevertheless, Callaghan highlighted other spots on the map that filling in the void - namely Russia followed by Thailand and Italy.

The top three Google products cited in data removal requests came down to Blogger (1,066 requests), Search (841 requests) and YouTube (765 requests).

Over the second half of 2013, 38 percent of government removal requests cited defamation as the top reason for removal, followed by 16 percent citing obscenity or nudity, and 11 percent falling back on privacy or security.

"Our Transparency Report is certainly not a comprehensive view of censorship online," Callaghan wrote. "However, it does provide a lens on the things that governments and courts ask us to remove, underscoring the importance of transparency around the processes governing such requests."

Aside from the redesign, which Callaghan acknowledged was partially motivated to provide "explanations of our process," Google included examples about roughly 30 requests from federal agencies around the world.

For example, in the United States, Google said it "received a request accompanying a third-party court order by a CEO of a credit company who requested we remove 333 search results for articles that suggested he was engaged in fraudulent business dealings."

Google affirmed it did not remove content as the court order was "irrelevant to the content in question."

Screenshot via Google

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