A Missing Page from Google's Transparency Report

By Cindy Waxer September 21, 2010

In an effort to mollify critics of its privacy and transparency policies, Google has introduced a new tool called The Transparency Report, at google.com/transparencyreport/. It shows where governments are demanding Google to remove content and where Google services are being blocked. For instance, the U.S. has made the largest number of data requests while YouTube has been inaccessible in Iran since the contested presidential election in June 2009.

This isn’t the first time Google has taken steps towards greater transparency. Earlier this year, the Mountain View, California search and advertising giant launched its Government Requests map, which displays each time a government asked Google to take down, censor or release user data, and how often Google complied with these requests. The map is now a part of the Transparency Report and will be updated every six months.

In addition, Google’s interactive Traffic graphs shows historic traffic patterns for a given country and service. Visitors can discover the location of outages, whether they have been caused by a government blocking information or cable being cut out (although Google doesn’t differentiate between the two).

On its site, Google states: “Transparency is a core value at Google. As a company we feel it is our responsibility to ensure that we maximize transparency around the flow of information related to our tools and services. We believe that more information means more choice, more freedom and ultimately more power for the individual.

There is, however, one glaring omission from The Transparency Report: China is missing from the government requests tool because Chinese authorities consider censorship demands to be state secrets that cannot be published, according to Google. In fact, clicking on that country on the map brings up a message from Google: “Chinese officials consider censorship demands to be state secrets, so we cannot disclose that information at this time.”

Edited by Erin Harrison

TechZone360 Contributing Editor

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