Google Releases Stats On Country Info & Takedown Requests; Leaves Us Wanting More

from the transparency-is-good dept

Google’s getting some attention for its decision to launch a tool highlighting the information requests made by various governments to Google, either to gather information or to take down certain content. According to Google, this is a part of its efforts to try to keep the internet more open, as seen by its decision to leave China and its pushing back on Australia’s attempts at censorship. Of course, many will claim that this is just self-serving on Google’s part, since it’s better off with a more open internet — but that doesn’t mean the initiative is a bad idea.

Still, it’s not clear really how much there is to learn from this tool. Basically, we see that Brazil requests a lot of information and takedowns — and the US requests an awful lot of info. And… well.. then we’re left wondering. The tool does breakdown the nature of the removal requests, but not in very much detail. And it doesn’t do that for the data requests. So, really, all this tool does is leave us wondering what exactly is being requested and/or taken down. Perhaps that’s the point of the tool: to get people to ask more questions, but it seems like Google could have done a bit more to highlight that kind of information as well.

Separately, in its op-ed about the new program, Google also suggests that the best tool for encouraging a decrease in repressive governments is through better free trade agreements. If only that were the case. Real free trade agreements can increase openness tremendously, but lately the sorts of “free trade agreements” we’ve seen have been things like ACTA — which is not at all about openness, and very much about using the same repressive tools used by China to try to block forms of communication.

It’s good that Google is encouraging some discussion on this topic, and perhaps this is the point of the limited tool, but looking through it seems to simply open up a lot more questions than it answers.

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Companies: google

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Comments on “Google Releases Stats On Country Info & Takedown Requests; Leaves Us Wanting More”

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Marcus Carab (profile) says:

If I recall correctly, the tool also doesn’t count the number of things requested, only the number of requests – and that one request could be for a single takedown or piece of information, or for a hundred of them. If that’s true then these statistics would be massively skewed by simple bureaucratic nuances: an office in one government might have a system where they send a bunch of separate requests while the same office in another government bundles them.

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