Thursday, November 3, 2011

How private is your private Google data? Google transparency report

How private is your Google data ? The data in question includes your personal photos, documents, contacts and emails used by or stored in a multitude of Google applications like Picasa, orkut, Docs, blogger, Gmail etc?

In the general the data is in relatively safe hands.

But in the true sense the data is not 100 percent private.

Governments and other government agencies and officials belonging to law enforcement agencies can request for private Google user account data and content stored in Google accounts and some times request the data be blocked or removed permanently.

Fortunately, Google has a report giving the number of such requests that they get from the government and even classifies these based on the type of requests and the application it belongs to.

This is called the Google Transparency report

Google classifies the requests that it gets from the government into two different categories :
  1. User Data requests
  2. Content Removal requests
User Data requests is basically requests that require google to give out user data and account information. This can be anything ranging from basic account information to personal files.

Direct link to the page above : Link

The Indian government and its various agencies has requested for User Data in Google accounts and services 1739 times which includes 2439 user account

Its scary to think that the government has this type of access to view your most private data that for example may be your personal photos stored in Picasa in a private album.

Content Removal requests are those sites or URLs that need to be blocked or removed from the google search results or from applications/services like Orkut, Blogger etc.

Direct link to the page above : Link

Indian government had requested 68 times for more than 358 items to be removed from either search results or block/remove google services content like orkut, youtube etc.

It is true that this facility can be very useful for blocking malicious material from the internet like stolen personal photos or documents or shutting down blogs or sites that propagate anti-social thoughts and content. We should also understand that inherent potential of this facility to be misused.

We should really applaud Google's transparency report initiative which makes this sensitive data public and thus to an extent prevent misuse.

What do you think of this? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section.

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