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What’s Your Government Hiding? Google Knows

Google government

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Perhaps stung by yesterday’s open letter from 10 countries criticizing its privacy policy, Google has announced it is to release information on government requests to hand over data and censor information. David Drummond, the firm’s chief legal officer, believes that that “greater transparency will lead to less censorship.” At the same time, Google’s VP for Global Communication and Public Affairs, Rachel Whetstone, reiterated company policy for its sites across the world.

According to the firm, the number of countries censoring information has risen tenfold, from just four in 2002 to 40 in 2010. The Government Requests tool will be updated every six months, and will show every request that Google has received from nations regarding either Google or YouTube. The current map shows Brazil, the U.S., and the U.K. at the top of the tree for requests for data, and Brazil, Germany and India heading the list for data removal.

And what of China? Given that the Chinese authorities believe censorship information to fall under the aegis of state secrets, Google is unable (cynics and conspiracy theorists may prefer to replace unable with unwilling) to reveal the juicy details of the its relationship with the totalitarian state.

Given the fanatical secrecy and Omerta policy of just about every tech company these days, is Google being more open than the rest of the main players? Up to a point, Lord Copper. It’s a very clever move by the firm which, on a scale of one to Apple, rates (we reckon) around the 5.5 mark–low marks scored due to its reticence to talk about the way it generates its serious cash. What Google excels at on the full disclosure front is its tools that open other people’s privacy up–Street View, and yesterday’s revamp of Google Places, which, if it works the way Google wants it to work, will have Google eyes just about everywhere–apart from on itself.

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About the author

My writing career has taken me all round the houses over the past decade and a half--from grumpy teens and hungover rock bands in the U.K., where I was born, via celebrity interviews, health, tech and fashion in Madrid and Paris, before returning to London, where I now live. For the past five years I've been writing about technology and innovation for U.S

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