By Martin Kaste, NPR
Google wants you to know you’re being watched. Or rather, the company
wants you to know how and when the police get to watch what you do
For the first time, the company has posted its policies
for when it gives up users’ information to the government. It’s part of
a broader company strategy to push for tougher privacy laws.
companies don’t usually dwell on the subject of the authorities looking
at your stuff, but that’s exactly what Google Senior Vice President and
Chief Legal Officer David Drummond is doing in a special “Frequently
Asked Questions” page posted Monday.
“The new thing is that
we’re actually sort of saying in a granular way, product by product, how
it is that we handle the requests,” Drummond says.
has posted the information for the four Google products that attract
the most requests from police. For Google Voice, for instance, you can
look up what the police would need to listen in to your voice mail.
says they need a search warrant — which means they’d first have to show
a judge “probable cause” of a crime. Police face less of a challenge,
though, to find out who owns a particular Gmail address. All that takes
is a subpoena — no probable cause required, and — often — no judge.
companies are very secretive about civil and law enforcement requests
for user data,” says Chris Hoofnagle, who specializes in privacy issues
at Berkeley Law. He says companies usually prefer to preserve some
wiggle room on how they respond to law enforcement.
going out on a limb here because, by making these statements, they might
be creating customer expectations that certain process will be followed
when their data is revealed to law enforcement,” Hoofnagle says.