U.S. Continues to Blow Away the Field in Demanding Information from Google

Oct 25, 2011
Chris Conley

Page Media

ACLU of Northern CA

We know that the government takes advantage of outdated privacy law to demand our personal information from online services that collect and hold our data. But what we rarely know is exactly how often this happens: the government isn't required to reveal how many demands for information they make or how many individuals are affected, and companies rarely volunteer this information. One of the very few exceptions is Google, whose Transparency Report shows that the government continues to increase its demands for data about users of online services.

Between January and June 2011, U.S. law enforcement agents made 5,950 requests for data about Google users. That was not only by far the highest reported total – India was second with 1,739 – it was a 29% increase over the previous 6 month period. So our government not only demands more information from Google than anyone else in the world, they're continuing to ramp up these demands.

And, of course, Google is only the tip of the iceberg. We simply don't know how many demands other search engines, social networks, ISPs, and other online services receive. Isn't it time we knew?

As Google itself said:

We believe that providing this level of detail highlights the need to modernize laws like the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which regulates government access to user information and was written 25 years ago-long before the average person had ever heard of email.

It's time to demand a privacy law that isn't stuck in the digital dark ages. So please join us and tell Congress to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act today.

Chris Conley is the Technology and Civil Liberties Fellow with the ACLU of Northern California.