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Google releases their approach to government user data requests

Just as promised, Google made public on Monday, January 28, 2013 just how they comply with government requests for user’s personal data.  According to Google, requests for user data have gone up over 70% over the last three years and that it really worries them.

Just how the government requested user data from Google remained unclear until this past Monday’s Google blog post.  The blog post was a follow up to one Google made with their ‘Transparency Report’ the previous Friday, which gone over in detail how often governments were requesting user data.  

On Monday, David Drummond, who serves as Google’s Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer wrote a very detailed blog on how Google is committed to a user’s privacy.   Drummond wrote that Google has a very strict policy of protecting user data and have petitioned to update the laws pertaining to the U.S. Electronic Communications and Privacy Act. 

Listing in detail how Google goes about comply with requests for data, Drummond writes:

·  We scrutinize the request carefully to make sure it satisfies the law and our policies. For us to consider complying, it generally must be made in writing, signed by an authorized official of the requesting agency and issued under an appropriate law.

·  We evaluate the scope of the request. If it’s overly broad, we may refuse to provide the information or seek to narrow the request. We do this frequently.

·  We notify users about legal demands when appropriate so that they can contact the entity requesting it or consult a lawyer. Sometimes we can’t, either because we’re legally prohibited (in which case we sometimes seek to lift gag orders or unseal search warrants) or we don’t have their verified contact information.

·  We require that government agencies conducting criminal investigations use a search warrant to compel us to provide a user’s search query information and private content stored in a Google Account—such as Gmail messages, documents, photos and YouTube videos. We believe a warrant is required by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits unreasonable search and seizure and overrides conflicting provisions in ECPA.

Demand for user data by many foreign governments has gone up as well over the past 3 years and Google says they want their users to know how it all works.  However, in some rare cases a search warrant may limit what Google can and cannot reveal to a user.  One figurative example would be if the CIA were monitoring a known terrorist and were able to track down their private E-mail.  With this particular example Google could not lawfully tip them off – depending who they are of course, and any effort to do so could jeopardize national security.

Jack Taylor
Jack Taylor is an accomplished writer who works as a freelance journalist and has contributed to many award winning media agencies, which includes VRzone. Born in 1971, Taylor holds a Bachelor of Science with a focus in Journalism, graduating Magna Cum Laude. An eclectic writer, Taylor specializes in editorials, trending technologies and controversial topics such as hacktivism and government spying.

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