We all know that Google tracks our every move online. But how often are our moves investigated by actual people? According to data released today in Google’s Transparency Report, Google received 14,201 requests from 25 countries for private user information in the second half of 2010.
The U.S. leads with the most requests at 4,601, of which Google complied with 94 percent. Other countries not far behind on the list includes Brazil with 1,804 user data requests, India with 1,699, and the U.K. with 1,162.
Although the requests are mostly related to “criminal investigations,” Google stated. There are “likely a small number of requests that fall outside of this category. For example, we would include in the statistics an emergency request from a government public safety agency seeking information to save the life of a person who is in peril even though there is not necessarily a criminal investigation involved.”
Besides requests made for user information, the Transparency Report also show statistics for requests for content removal. The reasons vary country to country, but some requests for content removal are the result of accusations of defamation, while others are related to hate speech, pornography, impersonation, copyright, and national security, according to Google.
The top countries for content removal are as follows: the U.K. requested that a total of 93,518 items be removed, South Korea requested that 32,152 items be removed, and Brazil requested 12,363 items be removed. Interestingly, the U.S. made only 1,421 requests for removal.
The Google services named in these requests included Web search, Google Images, Google Groups, Google Videos, YouTube, Google AdWords, and Gmail.
So is Google the “Big Brother” that they are made out to be? It depends on how you look at it. While it appears to be the case that for the most part, unless you’re being investigated for a potential crime, you maintain a certain amount of anonymity. However, your information is being tracked and saved and at the disposal of Google, which means that veil anonymity can be lifted at the request of someone searching you out. Some will say, “what do you care if you’re not committing any crimes?” However, personally, the issue is not what they’re using the information for currently, but what allowances they might be given to use the information for in the future that we can’t think of yet that is the concern.