Google Urges Users to Protect ThemselvesAccording to Google, it has become increasingly easier for others, especially the U.S. government, to access its users' information. In the past three years, the company has received 70% more requests for this personal information than in previous years, and they claim that the majority of these requests come from the United States government. Google has been forced to comply with two-thirds of these requests for personal data.
The company itself is trying to inform users of this for their own protection. A privacy advocate at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Trevor Timm, hopes to remind people that the Electronics Communication Privacy Act (ECPA) is still active and that electronic communication is not protected by the Fourth Amendment. He states that many people believe that police have to get a warrant signed off on by a judge. This, however, is not the case, and police can gain access to emails over 180 days old without probable cause. These requests for personal data often come as subpoenas, which a judge does not necessarily have to approve.
In addition to this, there is talk of Congress adding amendments to the ECPA this year. Based on the current administration's interest in pushing for easier electronic wiretapping, online privacy is not looking so great for the average user. While Google has faced numerous lash-outs from users as a response to having handed out this data, the company wants its users to know that it is doing whatever it can to resist these requests. Although legally a subpoena is enough to get the aforementioned information, Google has been fighting these requests by requiring search warrants for information such as Gmail messages, private videos, and stored text messages from Google Voice.
Another of Google's responses to angry users has been to publish transparency reports. These reports let users know how many requests for personal information have been made. This effort has been made in order to show what Google is up against and just how many requests the company has to deal with, as well as how many are able to be denied. So far, 68% of its total requests come from the U.S. government as subpoenas, search warrants, and various other court orders. While the company has to obey many of these orders, Google wants its users to work on protecting themselves.