11/17/2012, 00.00
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Law enforcement doubles requests for Google users' data

In six months, 192 requests are made, more than in Japan. Hong Kong's Democratic Party slams the authorities' excessive interference in Google users' privacy. Some requests involved blocking sites deemed "dangerous" by mainland Communist officials.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews/ Agencies) - Requests by Hong Kong law enforcement for Google users' data were almost double that in Japan, the Internet giant said as it called on the territory's privacy commissioner to look into the rise.

The internet giant yesterday said that in the first half of this year it had received 192 requests for data to use in investigations compared to 325 in all of last year and 140 in 2010.

The increase prompted Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun to call for a probe by the privacy commissioner into possible "abnormal surveillance".

In the same period, Japan law enforcement made 104 requests, and Russia's made 58. Globally, Google, which is blocked in mainland China, received 20,938 requests, up 25 per cent year on year.

Google officials attributed the rise to more people using its services. However, the number of requests for user account information is abnormally high for a territory like Hong Kong with only 7 million people.

By comparison, "There are more than a 100 million people in Japan. And Japan is helping the United States to monitor terrorists," To said. Hence, "There is no reason why Hong Kong should have more requests than Japan".

In its report, Google revealed that a request had been received from a provincial land bureau in mainland China to remove a search result linking to a site that allegedly defamed a government official. The company it did not comply.

Google also received a request from Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department to remove 377 YouTube videos for containing allegedly copyright-infringing material. Google did not respond to the request because the notice was incomplete.

After a fight over censorship, Google pulled out of the Chinese market in 2010 because local authorities wanted total control over e-mail data to monitor dissident activities.

Mainlanders can still access Google's Hong Kong Chinese-language search engine, but connection is blocked as soon as words deemed "dangerous" by Communist authorities appear.

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