Google has unveiled a new querying tool that allows users to find out what the number of times any government formally requests information from the search engine giant.
The service, which is available at google.com/governmentrequests, also shows which country censor content from Google services, a step that has been applauded by civil liberties advocates worldwide.
The data is visually presented as an overlay on Google Maps and displays the number of data requests and the number of demands to remove content from Google coming from governments and public bodies.
Interestingly, Google has had its own problems with maintaining an open and transparent environment and has recently been criticised over issues associated with its Buzz social networking tool.
The data one can extract makes interesting reading; the governments of the United States and Brazil have made more than 7200 requests for data to Google in the last six months of 2009.
Both countries have asked for a combined 414 times for content to be removed from the website data pool. UK made the most requests for information in Europe, 1166, which is significantly more proportionally than the US or Brazil.
India also features highly amongs the countries which have asked Google to delete content from its array of services and this is linked to the fact that social networking network Orkut is particularly popular, just like in Brazil.
Good on Google for launching such a service. The service shines some light on how governments interact with a global internet organisation that has an impact on the lives of so many. All in all, one can expect Google to deal with hundreds of thousands of requests globally over a year.