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Brazil and US revealed as binge eaters

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Brazil and the United States topped the list of nations demanding private information about Google users, according to a tool the web giant unveiled Tuesday.

Brazil sought information 3,663 times in the last six months of 2009, a figure that was closely followed by the US, with 3,580, according to the tool. That amounts to an average of almost 141 and 138 demands each month, respectively.

Google said it was sharing the data in an attempt to be as transparent as possible about the requests it receives from governments around the world. Such information is typically not made public.

"The vast majority of these requests are valid and the information needed is for legitimate criminal investigations," David Drummond, Google's senior vice president and chief legal officer, wrote here. "However, data about these activities historically has not been broadly available. We believe that greater transparency will lead to less censorship."

In addition to tracking the number of times governments demand information about Google users, the government requests tool also follows the number of times they request that information be censored. Over the same six-month period, Brazil topped the list with 291 requests. Germany, India, and the US followed with 188, 142 and 123 demands.

Google fully or partially complied with 82.5 percent of the requests from Brazil and 80.5 percent of them from the US.

The service doesn't track censorship demands from China, because the government there considers such information "state secrets".

Google cautioned that the numbers may not tell the entire story. That's because a single request may involve multiple users or websites. The figures also exclude requests made by private individuals.

Drummond said the tool will be updated in six-month increments. ®

This article was updated to correct information about the number of censorship requests Google complied with.

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