POLITICS

Fisheries asked Google to sink recording of internal coast guard meeting

09/21/2012 04:40 EDT | Updated 11/21/2012 05:12 EST
OTTAWA - The federal Fisheries Department unsuccessfully tried to persuade Google Inc. to pull an audio recording of an internal Canadian Coast Guard meeting from its popular video site.

Newly released records show the request was among several made by federal departments to the search-engine giant to remove material because of concerns about the content or alleged copyright infringement.

The results were tabled in Parliament this week in response to a request from Liberal MP Lise St-Denis. They provide a glimpse of the federal government's efforts to ensure content it deems inappropriate is not accessible through Google.

On June 16, 2011, Fisheries asked Google, which owns video-sharing site YouTube, to take down an audio recording of an internal coast guard meeting the previous day "in a Canadian National Defence secure facility where recordings are prohibited," say the department's notes filed in Parliament.

Google denied the request, saying it did not meet its criteria for withdrawing content.

However, the issue became moot when whoever uploaded the video closed their account, effectively removing the recording.

Fisheries Department spokesman Frank Stanek refused to say anything about who might have posted the recording or whether they were disciplined, "as we cannot comment publicly on matters pertaining to individual employees out of respect for their right to privacy" under federal legislation.

A Google spokeswoman said the company does not discuss specific cases. However, it publishes a transparency report on its corporate website detailing removal requests.

"Like all law-abiding companies, we comply with valid legal process," Google said in a statement.

"Whenever we receive a request we make sure it meets both the letter and the spirit of the law before complying. If we believe a request is overly broad, we will seek to narrow it."

In another — already widely publicized — case, Passport Canada asked Google to yank a YouTube video made last September of someone urinating on a Canadian passport and trying to flush it down the toilet.

"Passport Canada asked that the video be removed, as the Canadian passport must never be intentionally altered or damaged," says the rationale filed in Parliament on behalf of the passport agency.

It notes that passports are federal government property and that holders are responsible for safeguarding them.

"Desecrating property of the Government of Canada is not something we will support or condone. Furthermore, it is unfortunate that anybody would so flagrantly abuse this privilege when so many are trying to gain Canadian citizenship.

"Passport Canada will take all efforts to continue to protect the security and integrity of Canadian travel documents."

In the end, Google did not comply with the removal request and "Passport Canada did not further pursue the matter," say the agency's notes.

The Public Service Commission contacted Google in January and was successful in having two items stripped from YouTube.

"One video was originally posted on the commission's internal website and was intended for internal use only," says the response tabled in Parliament. "The second video was modified to include derogatory statements.

"As well, the person who posted the videos did not indicate that the reproductions were not produced in affiliation with, nor endorsed by, the Government of Canada."

Similarly, the National Film Board was successful in having its productions withdrawn from YouTube several times between July 2011 and January due to concerns over copyright and distribution rights.

The Immigration and Refugee Board contacted Google on two occasions when it became apparent that information about people who appeared before the board would turn up in a Google search, as opposed to a search of the tribunal's website.

The board says the approach is in keeping with privacy principles jointly adopted by federal administrative tribunals.

Google complied with the requests.