Google has been under fire of late, particularly due to privacy issues.
Its Street View map photography project, and the launch of the Gmail social networking offshoot, Buzz, have both caused a considerable degree of controversy.
Now the search giant has unveiled a tool called Government Requests (www.google.com/governmentrequests), which it no doubt hopes will help generate some more positive publicity for the company.
Basically, this new page shows the amount of requests from government agencies across the globe, which have sought to obtain information on Google’s users, or asked for content to be removed from the site.
In other words, government surveillance and censorship.
Google says that data like this has never been available before, and that by making it public, the greater level of transparency will lead to less censorship.
The site does point out, however, that many of these requests are legitimate ones. For example, the removal of child pornography, or requests for data regarding a person involved in a criminal investigation.
So, who’s top of the league when it comes to government censorship and surveillance on Google?
It would be China, no doubt, but the figures for that country aren’t published, as apparently they’re a state secret.
Otherwise, the top nation is Brazil on both counts, with 3,663 data requests and 291 removal requests in the second half of 2009.
The US is right up there on data requests, in second place just a whisker behind Brazil on 3,580. Germany is second on removal requests, with 188.
The UK comes sixth on removal requests with 59, but third on data requests with 1,166.
When you consider population, however, Brazil has a smidge over triple our number of citizens, and the US is bigger by a factor of five.
Working it out on a per head of population basis, by our maths, the UK just edges out Brazil and comes top of the chart in the surveillance stakes.
Now there’s a surprise for the country which has the most CCTV cameras per head of population in the world.
On the company blog, Google commented: “We hope this tool will shine some light on the scale and scope of government requests for censorship and data around the globe.”
“We also hope that this is just the first step toward increased transparency about these actions across the technology and communications industries.”