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When Google Lets The Government See Your Private Info

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013 by | Filed Under: Android, Using The Internet

Google has issued a transparency report explaining when they’ll allow the U.S. Government to take a look at your private information such as e-mails, photos and documents.  You might say, “Google doesn’t have any of my private information,” but they just might.



If you use the Google Play Store for your Android device, Gmail, Google Docs, Blogger, Google +, post videos on YouTube or even just use Google for searches, the company has bits of your information stored on their servers.  The company says people don’t always use their services for good, so sometimes it’s necessary to share information in order for law enforcement to investigate illegal activity.

When Google gets a request for personal information from the the government, here’s the process they follow:

  • scrutinize them carefully to ensure they satisfy the law and our policies;
  • seek to narrow requests that are overly broad;
  • notify users when appropriate so they can contact the entity requesting the information or consult a lawyer; and
  • require that government agencies use a search warrant if they’re seeking search query information or private content, like Gmail and documents, stored in a Google Account

When conducting national security investigations, the FBI can issue a National Security Letter to obtain identifying information about a user. The FBI can also prohibit a company from disclosing that request. Google says they are working with the government to be able to provide more information about those types of requests. 

According to Google’s data, from July to December 2012, 1,896 search warrants were issued for user data and 5,784 subpoenas were issued for user data.  Close to 90% of those requests resulted in user information being handed over to the government. You can learn more about Google’s policy regarding requests for private information here.

~ Cynthia


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