Google Launches Government Requests Tool

Search giant Google on Wednesday launched the Government Requests Tool, a statistical map that showcases the number of government requests received to remove content and the percentage of those requests that Google complied with on a country-by-country basis.

"Article 19 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights states that "everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers." Written in 1948, the principle applies aptly to today's Internet -- one of the most important means of free expression in the world. Yet government censorship of the web is growing rapidly: from the outright blocking and filtering of sites, to court orders limiting access to information and legislation forcing companies to self-censor content," Senior Vice President, Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer David Drummond wrote on the official blog.

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As you can see in the map, there are two types of government requests: removal requests and data requests. What is the difference between the two?

According to Google, "removal requests ask for removal of content from Google search results or from another Google product, including YouTube. For purposes of this report, data requests ask for information about Google user accounts or products."

Basically, I can see two top objectives why Google made this new feature available. First, to provide information, historical data of activities subject of government requests needed for "legimate criminal investigations" and second, to promote greater transparency that will lead to "less censorship" on content and search on the web.

This is a pretty complex topic. If you'd like to be deeply educated on how this tool works, I recommend that you read the Overview here, and the FAQs here.