Google has provided a few more details on user data requests made by Government agencies and the way the company responds to those requests. The company recently stated that there had been a 70 percent rise in government requests compared to the previous two years.
Google’s stance has been explained through the company’s official blog by Senior Vice President and Legal Officer, David Drummond. He explained that the company had a strict process that handled all requests. Whenever any government agency requested user details such as contents of an email or data provided while signing up for a Google account, his team scrutinized each request thoroughly to ensure that Google’s policies as well as the law were obeyed by that request.
In addition, the request had to come in written form and under the appropriate law, and with the sign of the authorized official of the agency requesting the information. Google officials could refuse any request that was too broad or ask the agency to narrow it down. The affected user would also be notified about any request to enable him or her to contact the requesting agency or seek consultation from a lawyer, although this was not possible all the time due to legal constraints placed on the company itself.
The company also ensured that criminal investigations that required private user data including Gmail messages, photos, and documents stored in Google accounts as well as YouTube videos were executed only after producing a search warrant. Google believes that this is necessary to protect user rights under the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution that could avoid conflicts in ECPA and avoid unreasonable search and seizure incidents.
David Drummond also stated that the company would do its best to provide information about government requests to users and had also added a section in their Transparency Report to provide answers to many queries from their users. He explained that the government used warrants, court orders, and subpoenas to compel Google to divulge user information to relevant authorities.
David Drummond explained that the company was committed to protecting the privacy of its users while ensuring that governments pursue their legitimate investigations. The company also planned to pursue updating of the US Electronic Communications Privacy Act.