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Google Releases Data on Governments' Demands For User Data, Site Censorship

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Advertisers aren't the only ones hungry for data on online users. So are U.S. and foreign governments, according to Internet giant Google.

The online search provider disclosed how often it receives requests for private information from government authorities around the globe, as well as demands to censor its applications. The company said it hopes to shed light on the practices of governments and on a growing push to block information on the Web.

"We at Google believe that greater transparency will lead to less censorship online," said David Drummond, Google's chief legal officer.

He said more than 40 governments censor information today, up from four in 2002. China has put up firewalls so that domestic users cannot access information, as well as technological barricades that prevent users from communicating with each other.

Google showed that Brazil and the United States made the most requests for private user data from July to December of 2009. Each nation asked more than 3,000 times for such information on users of YouTube and the social networking site Orkut, for example.

Brazil and Germany topped the list for nations demanding the removal of online material. Brazil asked the company more than 150 times to take down pages on Orkut, which is popular there and on which users were impersonating individuals. In Germany, many requests involved removing material that was pro-Nazi or that related to defamation lawsuits, the company said.

From The Washington Post
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