The Indian government submitted more user data retrieval requests than any other Asian nation in 2013 and came second only to the US globally, according to the latest stats from Google released this week.
However, of the chasing pack, India came second with 5,204 requests in 2013. Google said it complied with 65 per cent of these requests for user data.
Next came Germany (4,971), France (4,761) and the UK (2,671). Australia came down in 8th place, with the authorities there having submitted 1,425 requests over the course of the year.
Law enforcers typically petition the web giant for user data when they suspect criminal behaviour – usually something like copyright infringement or the posting of pornographic or defamatory content.
As such, it’s perhaps not surprising that India ranked so high up in the report. The current Union government has presided over a significant crackdown on the free flow of information online over the past few years.
It introduced a surveillance apparatus in the form of the Central Monitoring System and has regularly blocked content deemed morally offensive or which could spark civil unrest.
The latest Freedom on the Net report from non-profit Freedom House in October 2013 slammed India for the biggest year-on-year decline of any country, sandwiching it between Rwanda and Cambodia on the list.
In particular, it pointed to “excessive blocks on content” and a worrying “uptick in the filing of criminal charges against ordinary users for posts on social media sites”.
Many citizens of the world's most populous democracy will be hoping whoever wins the current general election will start by striking a more positive note for online freedom. ®