Google Transparency Report: Let's Read it Together

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Pierluigi Paganini

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(Translated from the original Italian)

I consider the Government surveillance one of the most interesting security topic, the possibility legally and not to interfere with digital experience of its citizens. In many cases governments for various reasons, such as homeland security, spy on users tracking their operations on internet, intercept their communications and access to mail accounts.

The phenomenon is widespread, Google company publish a biennial report, "Google Transparency report", to detail requests by governments it receives to the access to user's private information. I believe that share information on government activities is very important to ensure user's expression rights, the initiative of Google is valuable and unique.

The last Transparency Report is based on data collected by Google and related to the first half of 2012.  The graph below show the increase over the year of government surveillance, the number of inquiries from governments for access to user's data in the first half of 2012 were 20,938 related to a total number of 34,614 accounts.

 

The growth in the number of government requests for removal of content is significant during the period from January to June, the total number is 1,791, overall 17,746 pieces of content has been candidates for cancellation.

Let's go deep in the report, analyzing the user's data requests per countries it is possible to note the dominance of US (7969), followed by India (2319) and Brazil ( 1566). Impressive the US data, around 90% of request are accepted for a total  number of user impacted of 16281. Singular circumstance, requests from Russia, Turkey and Hungary were all rejected.

 

Governments requests content removal for different reasons such as defamation of for privacy and security issues, of course the tolerance is different from country to country implying a sensible difference for number of removal inquiries.

For your info the Google report also provides data related to requests, from copyright owners and reporting organizations that represent them, to remove search results that link to material that allegedly infringes copyrights. Data presents a scenario similar to government case registering a sensible increase of requests in the last months.

Let me conclude that last session of the report is related to traffic to Google services around the world. The report provides a series of graphs for a given geographic region and service that show historic traffic patterns.

The following graph allows to analyze the access to YouTube sevice in Pakistan over the time, it is possible to note that YouTube became inaccessible on September 17th 2012.

The report is an excellent example of transparence, I really appreciate the initiative that gives the opportunity to the world wide security community to better understand the government interference in different areas of the planet.  Unfortunately the data are not heartening, governments are increasing their control over social media and on internet mainly in two ways:

  • using surveillance systems
  • through court orders

The situation is really concerning.

Pierlugi Paganini

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