This week everyone’s suspicions have been confirmed by Google’s new transparency report.
Twice a year Google releases a report which shows how many take down requests they receive from government agencies or organizations worldwide. The report also gives details on government surveillance through their networks.
The numbers that they give in the new transparency reports are alarming, but even Google admits that they only represent a small portion of what is taking place, because they only know about the government spying that is going on through their networks, with their knowledge.
“This is the sixth time we’ve released this data, and one trend has become clear: Government surveillance is on the rise. As you can see from the graph below, government demands for user data have increased steadily since we first launched the Transparency Report. In the first half of 2012, there were 20,938 inquiries from government entities around the world. Those requests were for information about 34,614 accounts.”
The report continues:
“The number of government requests to remove content from our services was largely flat from 2009 to 2011. But it’s spiked in this reporting period. In the first half of 2012, there were 1,791 requests from government officials around the world to remove 17,746 pieces of content.”
The report concludes that:
“You can see the country-by-country trends for requests to hand over user data and to remove content from our services in the Transparency Report itself, but in aggregate around the world, the numbers continue to go up…….
The information we disclose is only an isolated sliver showing how governments interact with the Internet, since for the most part we don’t know what requests are made of other technology or telecommunications companies. But we’re heartened that in the past year, more companies like Dropbox, LinkedIn, Sonic.net and Twitter have begun to share their statistics too. Our hope is that over time, more data will bolster public debate about how we can best keep the Internet free and open.”
For people who are concerned about privacy on the internet it may be a good idea to start learning encryption. There are many encryption programs that you can download for free so you can have private conversations and a private space on your computer.
Programs like Cryptocat can allow you to instant message privately, while a program like truecrypt can encrypt files on your computer. If you want to encrypt your emails, do a Google search for “gpg4win” and you will find a free program that will allow you to do that.
There is also now a smartphone app called Silent Circle, which allows people to encrypt all of their phone calls and text messages for a very reasonable monthly fee (roughly 20$).
So it is always important to remember that if you are online you are probably being watched, so be careful! With increased surveillance and crack downs on file sharers it is likely that projects like the TOR Browser will become more popular and more user friendly.
TOR is an anonymous browser that allows users to browse a deeper interface of the internet completely anonymously and as of right now that is one of the only options for totally anonymous surfing, but it does not allow you to surf the whole internet.
For a certain level of anonymity while surfing the general web, Proxy Servers and anonymous search engines like startpage.com are good to use.
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J.G. Vibes is the author of an 87 chapter counter culture textbook called Alchemy of the Modern Renaissance, a staff writer and reporter for The Intel Hub and host of a show called Voluntary Hippie Radio.
You can keep up with his work, which includes free podcasts, free e-books & free audiobooks at his website www.aotmr.com