Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Government requests to access citizens' personal information from Google; European telcos

1. Google

Privacy International have published an interview with Google about Google's transparency initiative to publicise data about government requests for personal information.

Google, to their credit, last week released their Government Requests Tool, based on their principles surrounding freedom of expression and controversial content on the web -

"to give people information about the requests for user data or content removal we [Google and YouTube] receive from government agencies around the world. For this launch, we are using data from July-December, 2009, and we plan to update the data in 6-month increments."

You can view this info by data requests or removal requests, and click on a country on the map (or in the list) to view more info about requests from that country's government.

The initiative has met with much praise and will certainly help the image of beleaguered Google, who have been the target of much criticism lately e.g. by privacy regulators in relation to StreetView and Buzz, with a PI satire on their privacy principles and an Onion spoof video on Google opt-out (on which by the way see also Google employees' - genuine, not spoof! - article on consent and opt-in or opt-out, if you missed it before).

2. EU telcos

Also, Oxford University researcher Dr Ian Brown has some specific data on European government requests for user data from telecommunications companies during 2008, from a recently-leaked European Commission review (NB, huge document!) of the EU Data Retention Directive, from which he's created a chart and table of government requests for comms data, by country name, per million population - see his blog post. (And see more generally his presentation on internet surveillance and monitoring.)

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