Google probably won’t be too perturbed about the size of the fine. Although it represents the maximum punishable fine under Spanish law, $1.2 million is but a drop in the ocean for the search engine giant, which has a market capitalization of over $350 billion, according to The Guardian. However, the fine may just worry Google for other reasons, because it’s not just Spain but a whole host of European nations that are becoming concerned about the amount of personal data that Google holds on its citizens in foreign jurisdictions.
With Google’s cloud services, any data that’s uploaded is stored remotely on servers owned by the company, and this means that its users have little to no control over what happens to their personal information. This is a matter of concern for a number of European watchdogs, as we saw last month when the Netherland’s data protection authority stated that Google had violated the Dutch Data Protection act as well. There are also ongoing investigations into Google in at least three other European nations.
Transparency Report: Censorship on the rise
Google may be accused of being the bad guy in Europe, but in its latest Transparency Report out today, the web giant has attempted to show itself in a much better light, accusing several governments of attempting to censor its search results.
The eighth edition of Google’s Transparency Report, which can be seen here, shows a total of 3,846 government requests were made from January to June this year, covering 24,737 items of content. According to Google’s legal director Susan Infantino, that represents a massive 68 percent increase from the previous six months – “a worrying trend” that shows no signs of stopping.
Luckily for us, just because a government requests that Google de-list a site, doesn’t mean that it will actually do so. Google says that it took down less than a third of all the content that was requested by governments, and says that these were justified by copyright, privacy and defamation laws.
The biggest offenders this time around were Turkey and Russia, which called for 1,673 and 257 removals respectively. This represents a tenfold increase in censorship requests from Turkey over the previous six months, and a fifty percent increase in Russian requests.
Google likes to see itself as an advocate of internet freedoms, and loves to discuss the demands of governments and intelligence agencies wherever possible. However, this advocacy has come under scrutiny since NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden accused the search giant of being a willing partner in its PRISM spying program – allegations that Google has vigorously and repeatedly denied.
To try and repair the damage done by the Ed Snowden revelations, Google has sued the US government to be allowed to publish so-called FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act ) requests that it receives, but so far has not been allowed to do so.