Many sites are talking about an announcement from Google about a new site they’ve launched. Claiming it is part of a trend on their behalf towards transparency, the Government Requests Tool lets visitors sift through information about government originated requests for user data and for takedown of content.
The hairs at the back of my neck are standing up a little and I am still trying to pin down why. In general, I think exposing this information is a good idea. Both kinds of requests are very often abused. Adding a dash of sunlight to the problem should help in reining in cases where governments are overreaching the legitimate uses of these procedures. It just strikes me as a shrewd move preparatory to some new rhetoric from Google trying to convince us that it is doing more than enough about privacy and takedowns, possibly as justification for eventually doing less.
My own poorly informed unease aside, Professor Ed Felten has an excellent first pass analysis. He is careful to qualify what data is and is not included in the new tool. He also teases out some correlations that should help put the countries that top the list into a more objective context. I concur with one of his conclusions, that user impact would be another useful dimensions when consider this information. At all events, please give his analysis a read for yourself.