Google faces more government demands for user info

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FRANCISCO (AP) _ Google is dealing with more government demands to turn over information

about its users as more people immerse themselves online.

The mounting pressure on the Internet search leader emerged in a statistical snapshot that

Google Inc. released Tuesday of its dealings with authorities around the world. Google

provided a country-by-country capsule of its legal sparring with authorities during the first

six months of the year.

This is the fourth time Google has disclosed a six-month summary of government requests

since it started reporting the numbers last year following a high-profile showdown with

Chinàs communist government over online censorship. In Tuesday’s update, Google included the

total number of user accounts targeted, instead of just the number of requests made by

police, prosecutors, courts and other agencies at all levels of government worldwide.

Google received more than 15,600 requests for user data in January through June period, 10

percent more than during the final six months of last year. The requests in the latest period

spanned more than 25,400 individual accounts worldwide _ a tiny fraction of Googlès more than

billion users.

Google became a caretaker of sensitive personal information through its dominant search

engine, which processes about two of every three online queries in the U.S. and an even

larger share of queries in parts of Europe. The company also vacuums up information about

what people are doing and thinking through its YouTube video service and increasingly popular

Gmail service for communications. Meanwhile, Google is trying to get users to share even more

tidbits about their lives on a social networking service called Plus, which has attracted

more than 40 million accountholders since it debuted in June as an alternative to Facebook.

All that information makes Google a potentially valuable resource for authorities fighting

crime, terrorism or other activities.

The highest volume of government demands for user data came from the U.S. (5,950 requests, a

29 percent increase from the previous six-month stretch); India (1,739 requests, up 2

percent); France (1,300 requests, up 27 percent); Britain (1,273 requests, up 10 percent);

and Germany (1,060 requests, up 38 percent).

Google also listed how many times governments sought to censor video on the company’s widely

watched YouTube video site or demanded some other piece of content be removed for reasons

ranging from privacy concerns to laws prohibiting hate speech.

The volume of worldwide censorship demands from governments remained at roughly the same

level it reached in the previous six months, although there were sharp spikes in some

countries. In Britain, for instance, the government asked Google to remove 220 videos from

YouTube during the first six months of this year, compared with 40 videos during the previous

six months. The British government wanted most of the videos taken down for “national

security« reasons.

Google declined to provide more details on the videos that the British government saw as

national security risks. Britain’s Home Office would only say that “the government takes the

threat of online extremism or hate content very seriously.» Google acquiesced to 82 percent

of the British government’s censorship demands in whole or part, according to Tuesday’s

breakdown.

The company usually complies with at least a portion of most government demands. Google has

said it often has little choice because it must obey laws in the countries where it operates.

The alternative is to leave, as it did last year when it shifted its search engine to Hong

Kong so it wouldn’t have to follow mainland Chinàs censorship requirements.

In the U.S., Google gave federal, state and other agencies what they wanted 93 percent of

the time. The nearly 6,000 requests affected more than 11,000 user accounts in January

through June.

In India, Google honored 70 percent of the 1,739 requests, which targeted more than 2,400

users, the second-highest totals.

Google, which is based in Mountain View, California, rejected the most government demands

for user information in Argentina, where it denied 68 percent of requests. It complied with

less than 50 percent of government requests for user data in Canada, Chile, France, Hong

Kong, Mexico, the Netherlands, Russia, Turkey and South Korea.

By disclosing how many government requests it receives every six months, Google hopes to

encourage the passage of new laws that will give the company more leverage to deny government

access to peoplès online communications and activities.

___ AP Writer Cassandra Vinograd in London contributed to this story. ___ Online:

http://www.google.com/transparencyreport/

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