Google Transparency Report Adds Breakdown of Legal Process

Google Transparency Report-July-Dec. 2012--now adds breakdown of legal process; user data requests increased by over 70% since 2009. In total, received 21,389 requests for information about 33,634 users taht include: 68% from U.S. gov; 22% through ECPA search warrants; 10% court orders.

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Google Transparency Report data now includes a breakdown of requests such as "subpoenas" or "search warrants," and a breakdown of data requests vs. user account requests in its July 2012 throguh December 2012 report.

"(W)e're now including a breakdown of the kinds of legal process that government entities in the U.S. use when compelling communications and technology companies to hand over user data," Google wrote.

Further, Google notes, that user data requests of all kinds have increased by more than 70 percent since 2009. "As you can see in our new visualizations of overall trends. In total, we received 21,389 requests for information about 33,634 users from July through December 2012," Google added.

The latest Transparency Report release today doesn't include new data on content removals--it's becuase, Google now wants to release those numbers separately going forward.

The data released today is broken down by country and time periods. According to Google:

  • "68 percent of the requests Google received from government entities in the U.S. were through subpoenas. These are requests for user-identifying information, issued under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act ("ECPA"), and are the easiest to get because they typically don't involve judges.
  • 22 percent were through ECPA search warrants. These are, generally speaking, orders issued by judges under ECPA, based on a demonstration of "probable cause" to believe that certain information related to a crime is presently in the place to be searched.
  • Remaining 10 percent were mostly court orders issued under ECPA by judges or other processes that are difficult to categorize," Google blogged.

Google Transparency Report July-December 2012: Data removal request by users

Google Transparency Report July-Dec. 2012: Summary of U.S. requests to Data removal

Upadate January 28, beging the Data Privacy Day, Google announced three initiatives to protect users privacy and security that include:

Google will now apply U.S. Electronic Communications Privacy Act, law to "personal documents that users keep in home along with your email and online documents."

Second, the company added a new section legal process to Transparency Report that answers questions such as information about government requests etc.

Finally, Google reveals that when a government agencies ask for users' personal information--like "what you provide when you sign up for a Google Account, or the contents of an email"--here is what they do:

  • "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," wrote Google's David Drummond, svp and chief legal officer.

About The Author

Deepak Gupta is a IT & Web Consultant. He is the founder and CEO of diTii.com & DIT Technologies, where he's engaged in providing Technology Consultancy, Design and Development of Desktop, Web and Mobile applications using various tools and softwares. Sign-up for the Email for daily updates. Google+ Profile.