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US Gov't Demands For Google Data Up 37% Over the Last Year 77

Posted by timothy
from the willie-sutton's-modern-corollary dept.
Sparrowvsrevolution writes "Governments are sticking their noses into Google's servers more than ever before. In the second half of 2011, Google received 6,321 requests that it hand over its users' private data to U.S. government agencies including law enforcement, and complied at least partially with those requests in 93% of cases, according to the latest update to the company's bi-annual Transparency Report. That's up from 5,950 requests in the first half of 2011, and marks a 37% increase in the number of requests over the same period the year before. Compared with the second half of 2009, the first time Google released the government request numbers, the latest figures represent a 76% spike. Data demands from foreign governments have increased even more quickly than those from the U.S., up to 11,936 in the second half of 2011 compared with 9,600 in the same period the year before, though Google was much less likely to comply with those non-U.S. government requests."
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US Gov't Demands For Google Data Up 37% Over the Last Year

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  • by daveschroeder (516195) * on Monday June 18, 2012 @08:11AM (#40357985)

    That's why it's called a "request". Words mean things.

    So what's driving the requests?

    There's far more information to request. Whether or not you agree with the notion of government requests for information, would you really expect requests to remain flat, or go down, when the pool from which information is being requested is getting dramatically larger? Yes, it's newsworthy -- that's why you're reading this story -- but it's not inappoprtiate.

    It's a request -- it is not illegal for the the US government to make a request of a business. It has never been illegal, and this is not some kind of "post-9/11" construct as some will assert. Government has been able to ask business for assistance since the founding of our country, and it does not run counter to the letter or spirit of the Constitution. Government is part of our society, and it is lawful for it to communicate with other components of our society.

    Government cannot compel a particular response without a warrant or court order: Google is not obligated to respond to the a request that is not accompanied by a warrant or court order in any particular way. Google may CHOOSE to comply with a request because there is nothing inappropriate about a business deciding to comply with a lawful request from a government agency. Fortunately, if you don't like Google's policy, you can choose not to use it.

    In other words, if you have an issue with Google complying with a US government request, your problem isn't with the US government -- it's with Google.

    Google policy analyst Dorothy Chou told me in an interview prior to the data’s release that one example of the requests might be for the IP addresses of users who log into their Google accounts, which law enforcement agents use to locate individuals involved in criminal cases such as kidnapping.

    She says Google requires that the requests are submitted in a written form, come from the appropriate agency, cite a criminal case and are sufficiently narrow in their demands in terms of which users are affected and what time frame of data is requested. "The data can often be very critical to a case," says Chou. "We want to show that we're advocating on your behalf. But we also want to do right by the spirit and letter of the law."

    [...]

    "We noticed that government agencies from different countries would sometimes ask us to remove political content that our users had posted on our services. We hoped this was an aberration. But now we know it’s not," reads the post from Google’s Chou. "Just like every other time before, we've been asked to take down political speech. It’s alarming not only because free expression is at risk, but because some of these requests come from countries you might not suspect—Western democracies not typically associated with censorship."

    For example, in the second half of last year, Spanish regulators asked us to remove 270 search results that linked to blogs and articles in newspapers referencing individuals and public figures, including mayors and public prosecutors. In Poland, we received a request from a public institution to remove links to a site that criticized it. We didn’t comply with either of these requests.

    See also Google's official blog post [blogspot.com].

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