Governments in Asian countries seem less likely to petition Google to hand over user data or to censor information, according to statistics revealed by the search giant in a new online tool.
Google has implemented the new tool and map to provide the numbers of government requests directed to Google and Youtube, but it stops short of providing any precise details on the nature of the requests.
Google said that the “vast majority of these requests are valid and the information needed is for legitimate criminal investigations”.
Google chief legal officer David Drummond said in a blog post: "However, data about these activities historically has not been broadly available. We believe that greater transparency will lead to less censorship."
China is specifically excluded because, as the Google website states: “Chinese officials consider censorship demands as state secrets, so we cannot disclose that information at this time”.
Google's new tool highlights that between July 1, 2009 and December 31, 2009 (with certain limitations), the Singapore government made 62 data request and less than 10 removal requests. Fifty per cent of the removal requests were full or partially complied with.
The Malaysian government, says Google, made less than 10 removal requests and none were complied with.
Governments in Indonesia ad Thailand made less than 10 removal requests and all were fully or partially complied with.
Brazil topped Google's list at the nascent Government Requests website, which indicated that officials there asked Google to filter content 291 times between the beginning of July and the end of December in 2009.
Germany number two
Germany was second with 188 requests to remove data while India and the United States ranked third and fourth respectively with 142 and 123.
Google deputy general counsel Nicole Wong said some of the overall government requests sought removal of multiple pieces of content. The company planned to release new figures every six months but acknowledged the data was less than perfect as the specific details of each content removal request are not provided.
"The issue around deciding to censor information requires some level of transparency, particularly in a democracy, for the people who are governed to be able to push back," Wong said.
She said regimes such as China and Iran "point to examples [of censorship] in Western countries" such as Australia when justifying their own, much more extreme, censorship.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.