Privacy campaigners express concern as UK alone sees 98 per cent increase in the number of requests to remove content from Google
Governments across the world are trying to control the internet more than ever before according to new data from Google.
The company warned that government surveillance was on the rise and pointed to unsuccessful attempts by governments and law enforcement agencies to remove videos and web pages that were critical of their actions.
The company's latest transparency report, covering January to June 2012, showed that across the world 20,938 requests for user data were made from governments.
"This is the sixth time we've released this data, and one trend has become clear: Government surveillance is on the rise," said Dorothy Chou, Google's senior policy analyst.
Nick Pickles, director of privacy and civil liberties group Big Brother Watch said the figures were worrying:
"These figures demonstrate how the Home Office's claim that internet services are beyond the reach of law enforcement is simply not true," he claimed.
Mr Pickles said that the issue needed to be addressed "urgently" before governments around the world "seek to control what citizens can see online."
In the UK alone, 1,425 requests for user data were made by law enforcement, courts and government. Of those, 64 per cent were successful. This figure is slightly down on the previous six months, July to December 2011, when Google reported 1,455 requests for user data from the UK.
Google also releases data about requests by governments to remove websites from its search results and services. The number of requests to remove such data in the UK rose by 98 per cent compared to the previous six months.
Google said it had received a request from local law enforcement to remove 14 search results to sites that criticised the police. A further request was made by another law enforcement agency to remove a YouTube video that criticised it of racism. In both cases Google did not remove the content.
The increase in requests by government and law enforcement to remove content was seen across the world. In France requests increased 132 per cent, with Germany seeing a 140 per cent increase.
Mr Pickles said that Google was right to defend against unwarranted take-down requests, but questioned its ability to remain steadfast in the face of pressure.
"Google are right to defend against unwarranted take-down requests, but how long can a company hold out when at the same time it is trying to do business with these same governments?"
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