Google item purge requests a record
Australian authorities requested a record number of items published on Google late last year be removed, at the same time as its compliance with such requests plummeted to an all-time low Photo: Andrew Quilty
AUSTRALIAN authorities requested a record number of items published on Google late last year be removed, at the same time as its compliance with such requests plummeted to an all-time low.
While the numbers of such requests from courts and law enforcement agencies in Australia is low, several requests encompassed hundreds of items.
Google has broken down the data into categories only since last year - and of the 656 items that authorities asked to be removed in 2011, 643 were on privacy and security grounds. Defamation, hate speech and pornography have also been targeted.
YouTube, Streetview, Google Earth, Blogger and the classic search have drawn the attention of authorities, but Google's compliance with requests fell to 35 per cent in the six months to December, down from 40 per cent in January to June last year, and from 93 per cent in the first half of 2010.
In the last half of 2011, 444 requests were made for Australian user data to be handed over - Google complied with 65 per cent of these requests, affecting 496 users or accounts. There were 361 user data requests, for 412 users or accounts, in the first half of 2011 and 345 in late 2010.
The figures were released in Google's fifth transparency report this week.
Google does not comment on country-specific trends, but in a blog post issued with the release of the data, it said users in some countries were requesting political material be removed.
''We noticed that government agencies from different countries would sometimes ask us to remove political content that our users had posted on our services,'' senior policy analyst Dorothy Chou wrote.
''We hoped this was an aberration. But now we know it's not,'' she said.
Electronic Frontiers Australia vice-chair David Cake said: ''I think it's inevitable that the number of requests is going to rise as we see more awareness of that possibility in government agencies.''
Google says it also removes content that breaks local laws without requests being made, and that it may not comply with requests if there is insufficient information.