Saturday, April 20, 2024

Google Explains Its Responses to Government Requests for Data

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Last week, Google updated its transparency report, which details how often it receives government requests for user data and how often Google complies with this request. Now, the company has clarified that information with a new blog post that explains how the company decides how to handle those requests.

PCMag’s Chloe Albanesius reported, “In honor of Data Privacy Day, Google this morning offered some more insight into how it handles government requests for your data, and pushed Congress to update an outdated law that covers how the feds can access your information. Google said it scrutinizes every request carefully to make sure it’s in line with its 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,’ the search giant said in a blog post.”

Bloomberg’s Eric Engleman added, “Google Inc. (GOOG), which says it gets about 1,400 requests a month from U.S. authorities for users’ e- mails and documents, is organizing an effort to press for limits on government access to digital communications. The company has been talking to advocacy groups and companies about joining a lobbying effort to change the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act, said Chris Gaither, a Google spokesman. He declined to elaborate. ‘Given the realities of how people live and where things are going in the digital world, it’s an important time for government to act’ to update the law, David Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer, said in an interview. ‘It’s a bipartisan issue and I think the momentum is going to build because citizens are expecting this.'”

ZDNet also quoted Drummond, who wrote, “We’re a law-abiding company, and we don’t want our services to be used in harmful ways. But it’s just as important that laws protect you against overly broad requests for your personal information.”

Claire Cain Miller with The New York Times observed, “If a government wants to peek into your Web-based e-mail account, it is surprisingly easy, most of the time not even requiring a judge’s approval. That is a problem, according to Google, which said it had received 21,389 requests for information about 33,634 of its users in the second half of last year, an increase of 70 percent in three years. Google handed over some personal data in two-thirds of those cases. The vast majority of the requests came from the United States government. In the last six months, United States officials made 8,438 requests for data, and Google complied with at least part of the request 88 percent of the time.”

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