On the one hand, it seems in poor taste that Google could be seen to be profiting from the performance of police searches. On the other, an incentive against law enforcement performing overly broad searches will be welcomed by privacy advocates.
In its transparency report about requests for user information, Google revealed an uptick in requests over the last decade, with over requests for data of over 160,000 users or accounts in the year 2019. In between 60 and 80% of cases over the years, Google has handed over at least some data. “We review each request we receive to make sure it satisfies applicable legal requirements and Google’s policies,” Google says in the report. “If we feel that a request is overly broad — asking for too much information given the circumstances — we seek to narrow it.”Google also that, regarding legal requests from government agencies in the U.S., “By far the most common is the subpoena, followed by search warrants.” It says it notifies users whose data has been requested where possible, as “If Google receives ECPA legal process for a user’s account, it’s our policy to notify the user via email before any information is disclosed unless such notification is prohibited by law.”
As concerning as it is that Google can make money (albeit a modest amount) from handing over user data to governments and law enforcement agencies, this week has seen far more worrying news regarding privacy. Phone-hacking technology seems to be in widespread use among law enforcement agencies in the U.S., with reports of the Israeli firm Cellebrite hacking phones on behalf of the U.S. government.
- Terrifying Clearview app could be the end of anonymity in public places
- Report says Apple doesn’t secure iCloud backups because the FBI asked it not to
- Apple rejects U.S. Attorney General request to unlock another phone
- Trump wants a backdoor into your iPhone. So do muggers, experts say
- À la carte phone hacking is scary, but it’s better than a government backdoor