Monday, February 13, 2012


For those of you who are unaware, Google processes most of the requests under local laws. They may decide to take down the content entirely or if the law is localized they may restrict access to the material by local IP address blocking.

The highest number of requests to remove content was from Britain with 93,518. Google said it removed 93,360 items in response to a request from Britain's Office of Fair Trading as part of a crackdown on fraudulent ads. Oh my..poor Brits. Watch out Duchess of Cambridge!

What will Google release to the governments? Google can be required to turn over essentially all account information on receiving a subpoena. That can include a user’s email address, access history, and any details the user has supplied to Google. For folks using free Google services, that might be next to nothing, but for folks who pay Google (or earn money from Google programs like AdWords) it can be a lot more, including a name, address, phone number, and other billing information. No search warrant is required.

Oh My, Singapore.
Between Jan-Jun 2011, 106 user data and 126 users/accounts requests were made by the Singapore Police to Google, and 75% of these were complied. Hold on there, don’t be fooled. If we were to compare these numbers against our small population (5.18 million now, no?), Singapore can easily be topping the charts.
According to Google, the statistics reflected the number of requests by the law enforcement agency for information at Google and YouTube, the percentage of requests that we comply with (in whole or in part) and the number of users or accounts specified in the requests. I guess Singapore government has to start thinking out of the box; Google and Youtube are not the only platforms that people use now days.

Table: Singapore User Data Requests

Noted the increasing trend, and the figure had doubled from 62 to 106 within a year (Jul2009-Jun 2010). Also, Google complied with 88% of 118 requests for content removal from Jul-Dec 2010 alone. The figure dropped slightly, and so was the number of requests complied (75%).

The Singapore government is fully aware and is ultra watchful over the increasing internet influence on its citizens. You can see the increasing number of requests made by the government. But therein lays the issue of privacy and rights of the people. Just what kind of offences would the police ask Google for details of user accounts? Also what laws are used to solicit the details from Google? Sure there are legitimate cases like maybe child porn, illegal sale of drugs and fraud but there are also many dumb laws in Singapore that make even the most meaningful of social action becomes a prosecutable crime. Would Google agree to just about any request from the police? Like Gary Yue Mun Yew who charged for inciting violence when he superimposed Wong Kan Seng photo on a man that was about to be executed by a soldier on Facebook? How many corporations are willing to stand up to government for inconsequential beings like you and me?
Internet is transparent.

It’s common to assume that only people who have something to hide have a reason to be worried. However, it’s important to remember that wanting to keep aspects of one’s life private is not the same thing as doing something illegal, and government’s track record for using information they obtain under ‘lawful’ purposes isn’t all that great. How many people have been barred from flying or detained for long hours at checkpoints because their names appear for no reason on some watch list or another? When we place our information in other people’s hands, the bottom line is that it is out of our hands. And, as Google’s transparency reports show, governments seem to be asking for it more and more.

p.s. yes blogspot belongs to google =O

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