Who"s davidlian?

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davidlian is an ultra-geeky chinese dude that works for a technology PR agency. He loves fiddling with techno-toys, plays Warhammer 40K, and shoots pictures wherever he goes. Here, he rants about PR, Technology and anything else. Don't expect balance and un-biased, he ain't no journalist. Anything said on this blog are solely davidlian's personal views. Don't confuse them with company mantra, client's views or views of any organisation he may be part of.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Google. Being transparent. For real [?]

Was just watching CNN and just caught the breaking news that Google had just launched its "government requests" tool.

Google's own explanation of the tool:
These numbers represent the number of requests we received from government entities for the removal of content or the disclosure of user data from July 1, 2009-December 31, 2009. There are limits to what this data can tell us. Some requests seek the removal of multiple pieces of content, or seek data for more than one account. There may also be multiple requests that ask for the removal of the same piece of content, or data for the same account. Because of the complexity of these requests, the numbers we are sharing do not reflect the total amount of content that we are asked to remove, nor the total number of accounts subject to data disclosure requests by governmental agencies. Also, this initial report doesn’t indicate whether Google complied with or challenged any request for user information, although we do provide percentages about our compliance with requests to remove content. We haven’t yet found a way to provide more detail about our compliance with user data requests in a useful way, but we plan to in the future.
I guess the move is refreshing after the recent, increasing paranoia about what Google might know about our lives (which in my case, a LOT!) Quite cleverly, this gesture helps position Google as more closely aligned with us (the consumers) against the other antagoniser of Internet freedom - your own government.

By throwing us this gesture to show us "we're on the same side!", Google manages to get kudos for being transparent, without actually revealing or promising us anything about what its doing with our data. [Okay, I may be over-reading this here. But hey, you never know what's going on in Google's mind]

But can we actually trust these numbers? Google's explanation seems to indicate that we'll have to take them with a pinch of salt inasmuch as these are the best numbers it's able to release. Like @kBoey shouted on Twitter, there's no admission of Google having complied with the censorship requests for GutterUncensored which is hosted by its Blogger service. Rather, as the screenshot above shows, Google's "transparency" tool tells us that less than 10 requests have been made by the Malaysian government and none of them have been complied with (how else do you read "0% compliance"?)

So, good move by Google, if its a genuine move. But I'm going to have to take any data presented here with a huge pinch of salt.

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