During the past 6 months, the government asked Google for 12,243 people’s personal information. Google complied with 93% of these requests, which works out to 11,386 individuals.
Companies like Google are in a tough spot when the government comes knocking for data: if they have it, they almost always have to give it up. Google has a good record of making these numbers available in its Transparency Report, and Twitter has fought requests for its users’ data, but most companies simply hand it over.
On their official blog, Google stated that “what we’ve seen over the past couple years has been troubling…It’s alarming not only because free expression is at risk, but because some of these requests come from countries you might not suspect—Western democracies not typically associated with censorship.”
Even though the United States represents the largest population of Google users, it still may surprise you that the US government topped this list of requesting user data, with nearly 7x more requests than any other country.
The full spectrum of requests is not published, but some are certainly well known. Who can forget Casey Anthony’s mother talking through her Google search history for chloroform on the stand at her daughter’s murder trial? In June of 2012, Steven Zirko was convicted of murder after the jury considered evidence of his browsing history and Internet searches for things like “mercenary for hire” and “private detective.” And don’t forget that Google has phone data through its Android platform, and that text messages are increasingly used as evidence in divorce, child custody, and criminal cases.
How do you feel about the government using private companies in their surveillance tools? What role do you think Google has in fighting to keep your data from the government? Tell us your thoughts in the comment section below.