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TMCNet:  UK requests to remove Google content up 98%: Web company warns of rising global surveillance Transparency report says police appeals refused

[November 14, 2012]

UK requests to remove Google content up 98%: Web company warns of rising global surveillance Transparency report says police appeals refused

(Guardian (UK) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Google refused more than a dozen requests from police in Britain to remove links to material that accused authorities of racism and obscuring crime, according to the company's online transparency report.

The number of requests for content removal from British authorities shot up 98% in the first half of this year, Google said, as it warned that government surveillance of citizens' online habits across the world is rising.

Authorities worldwide made 20,939 requests for internet users' personal data in the first six months of this year, according to Google - up from 12,539 requests in the final half of 2009, when Google first published its bi-annual transparency report. The list is headed by the US with 7,969 requests. Britain was sixth (1,425), behind India, Brazil, France and Germany.

In Britain Google rejected a request from an unnamed local police force to remove 14 search results linking to critical websites that accused individuals of obscuring crimes. A second local police force unsuccessfully asked Google to take down a YouTube video that accused the authorities of racism.

Britain is considering a bill that would require internet and phone companies to track and store every citizen's web and mobile phone use, including social networking sites, but without retaining their content, for 12 months.

There were requests from Britain to take down a total of 3,193 online items - including YouTube videos, blogposts and search results - in the first half of 2012. However, most of these - 2,864 - were related to Google AdWords, the company's online advertising service, where companies buy prominent search placements for specific words.

An investigation by the UK's Office of Fair Trading resulted in a vast number of AdWords items being taken down in 2011, but it is not clear if that is the case this year. Google said it removed 2,800 AdWords advertisements in compliance with court rulings that they were misleading.

The top three reasons cited by governments across the world for removing of content were defamation, privacy and security. Google also reported that it has received a number of falsified court documents demanding removal of content.

"This is the sixth time we've released this data, and one trend has become clear: government surveillance is on the rise," Google said in a blogpost.

"The information we disclose is only an isolated sliver showing how governments interact with the internet, since for the most part we don't know what requests are made of other technology or telecommunications companies. But we're heartened that more companies like Dropbox, LinkedIn, Sonic.net and Twitter have begun to share their statistics too. Our hope is that over time, more data will bolster public debate about how we can best keep the internet free and open." Captions: 3,193 Number of online items - YouTube clips, blog posts and search results - that UK officials wanted taken down in six months (c) 2012 Guardian Newspapers Limited.

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