Transparency: A Core Value of Google

On June 27, 2011, Google released their third Transparency Report, revealing data that shows the extent of government online spying worldwide. Traffic and government request statistics prove that there have been numerous, ongoing attempts to disrupt the free flow of information online in many countries.

Google’s Transparency Report re-iterates the fact that “more information means more choice, more freedom and ultimately more power for the individual”. It also echoes the concerns of many Canadians, 40 000 who have already signed's Stop Online Spying petition, and points to Canada’s impending regulatory travesty: the CPC’s determination to pass their “Lawful Access” bills (C-50, 51, 52).

The passing of these bills will likely negatively affect Canada’s standing in the next Transparency Report. This set of bills will mean that Canadians will have less control over their personal information, as ISPs will be forced to provide their subscribers' information to authorities, without a warrant.

Since 2009, government requests to remove content and/or obtain private user information have increased significantly. According to the report, "The United States is the top requester of user information (4,601 requests), while Brazil was the leader in takedowns, with 263 requests leading to the removal of 12,363 items."

Although Google complied fully or partially with 55 percent of the data requests from countries, such as Japan, Singapore, and Australia, they have refused to comply with the requests of Japan, Turkey, and South Korea. Google’s actions illustrate the varying types of censorship worldwide; some countries are more punitive than others.

Cybersecurity researchers are praising Google for its efforts in maximizing transparency. A cybersecurity researcher from Indiana University, Chris Soghoian, suggests that Facebook, Microsoft, and other large Internet companies should follow Google’s lead. Telecommunications companies like Telus and Rogers should also consider creating similar reports since they are often the first places government authorities go to in search of evidence and personal information, such as Internet history, voice recordings, and call logs.

For more on Lawful Access, check out's Stop Online Spying campaign and help increase cybersecurity in Canada by signing the petition against mandatory Internet surveillance.