Google handed over 11,385 people’s personal info to the government in the past 6 months

google-privacyDuring 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.




17 comments shared on this article:

  • Oompa L. says:

    Why do we even bother anymore if we are just pawns, and google wants to track every thought, click, preference, movie, youtube videos, image, search character, audio book, every book ever written, all of past human history so they can rewrite it, any political utterance so they can control it, all social network activity, of course every financial transaction or personal preference, all phone hardware, phone apps, all games, etc.

    Either 1) my data/pii is MINE and NO ONE has the right to it, to exploit it, to share it, to make money off of it, and should therefore have the legal right to be LEFT ALONE (left alone is the default rather than having to pay a legal team to fight for what is yours already) ****OR***

    2) it is decidedly NOT mine and therefore I have no jurisdiction over what some billionaires want to do, even if it ruins my life, causes me great expense, pain, embarrassment, you name it.

    I am hoping for #1 but not so optimistic, given the fact that people tend to worship over-exposed megalomaniac celeb CEO control freaks and their exploitation of the rest of us Oompa Loompas is largely ignored. Somehow I just tend to think that despite however logical, moral, or common sense it may be, it is simply never going to be in the best interests of any of these big companies to do what WE want them to do since their Big Business Model depends upon manipulating the public’s perceptions about all of this, anyway. Fox is in control of the henhouse.

    • Sarah Downey says:

      We’re hoping for number 1, too! And we’re working as hard as we can to make more privacy a reality. But you’re right: it’s an arms race, and we’re constantly fighting the people who are profiting off every last pixel of your data.

  • Lisa says:

    I would suggest if this is bothersome to you that you stop using google for anything! If you have a google email, delete it, use a different search engine and if you use Chrome, uninstall it and switch to firefox. Simply do not use google.

    • Sarah Downey says:

      That’s one option. However, it’s getting harder and harder to simply stop using Google products & services altogether, given how popular (and in many cases, good) they are. We’re working on a few tools that will let you use Google products more privately. Stay tuned!

      • Matthew Reed says:

        Not only that, but yahoo, aol, and most of Google’s competitors started complying with the government’s requests for information long before Google stopped holding out.

  • Tim Adkins says:

    From : One Nation – One map (try googeling that)
    To: NSA ‘s super computer site building now in Utah
    To: all database companies that collect & sells info to the Government (includes CIA).

    Big Brother is here and watching our every move, especially on-line; emails; & cell phone conversations. They deal in tera-flops of computing power and decryption abilities.

    Security over Freedom seems to be governments response.
    We do know that here is no freedom without responsibility.
    When do we get to say stop & where do hold the line?
    Without the ability of citizens to control governments intrusions, then they will
    dictate what constitutional rights you will have (or not have).

  • Lisa Ostella says:

    I’m more disturbed by the ‘Big Data, Inc.’ companies accessing and selling this data than I am by the government. The data brokers collect this data and resell it to anyone with a credit card. This is where regulations and restrictions need to be applied.

  • wj8165 says:

    What? You’re worried about Google?

    Does Google sell your credit score? No. Your current credit card balances? No. Do they sell your automobile’s VIN number? No. Do they sell your phone number? (minus the area code just to be legal) No, Google doesn’t sell any of those.

    Where do those records come from? Look to your credit card company, your local internet provider, your local utility companies, your bank and the big three credit reporting agencies. Different bits of data is sold on different demographics lists. It isn’t illegal unless ALL of a single person’s personal data is on a single list. So, big businesses actually sell much more volatile personal info than Google by far.

    Yes, anyone who buys two or three of the various demographics lists sold by most big businesses and then runs a cross-reference-decrypter on them will have those things and more in just minutes. Bill collectors and detectives (both public and private) have used this process for the past twenty plus years to find debtors and fugitives. Lots of marketers use this process everyday too.

  • I think Mr. Zukerberg’s objective may have been been to defeat your services. Nothing in the Abine program works any more since he pulled his last stunt. Could you put my suspectians to rest?

    • Sarah Downey says:

      I don’t think it’s as insidious as that :) It’s more like this: Facebook is basically a tracking machine. The entire site depends on tracking through and through to function. Anything that interferes with tracking has the potential to interfere with Facebook (like DNT+, for example). They’ve created a website that is inseparable from privacy violation.

      Facebook makes 85% of its money from advertising, and they make it complicated for you to use their site in a way that interrupts their ability to collect your personal information. Using Facebook is basically agreeing to be tracked. Although we can stop them from tracking you OFF of Facebook, including through Like buttons, there’s nothing that DNT+–or anyone else–can do about them ON Facebook. Anything you voluntarily post, like photos, your location, your comments, and your interests, is used for tracking purposes.

      Our best advice is to set strict privacy settings, be careful of what you share, and avoid games & apps that are essentially marketing companies in disguise. Facebook isn’t truly a free service; it’s paid for by its users’ information. That’s why the DNT+ icon turns yellow on Facebook: even if you can’t see any tracking companies in the alert window, you should surf with caution.

  • Lisa Ostella says:

    @Parnell Yeatts

    ZBerg02 defeated all the muggles. See Face-to-facebook.net/how.php .

  • stephanie says:

    In the Land of the Greed…while millions go to foreign countries but Americans lose their homes due to the outrageous interest rates imposed on citizens who have already been struggling financially. Those who can’t afford the ridiculous cost of health care get fined. Steal a candy bar, go to jail. It’s illegal to share music and media, legal for businesses to steal identities for profit…legal to raise interest to levels known out of home owners budgets. Sickening.
    It is these “pirates” who are to blame for identity theft.
    I noticed someone posted asking what’s the point in fighting it…we are not puppets and the last time I checked we are still in a Democracy, (a diminishing one but still…) If more people thought this and stopped being so passive, or naive, change may come—–and NOT the change this country was promised four years ago.

  • John says:

    The problem isn’t what has been mentioned. Mankind has been under assault for millenniums now. By who? Read (1 John 5:19; 2 Cor. 4:4; Rev. 12:7-14; Matt. 4:8-9) for starters. No matter what we do, the least of OUR problems reside with privacy pirates. It doesn’t make a bit of difference in the world what we do to stop this issue from occurring. Man is not the main problem whom humans need to be concerned with.

    Change of attitude is what needs to occur. These privacy issues can only be advantageous for the culprit if only the prey lets it be so. Attitude change would clinch the problem quickly.

    John

  • google is althouge very popular search engine then why it done this stupid things ….same

  • P.Louis says:

    Jee Whiz Google… Its very simple explanation if not long… how much or how little information you “publish” about a person, can be used against someone, that can be selective prejudice and not usually fact. This kind of associative information is like paparazzi, instead of pictures perfectly timed…. data perfectly presented! Don’t forget to add just a pinch of libel! I served for 11 years, I was in Psyop (don’t hold it against me) I was privy to some very interesting processes that even Google marketing would envy. What I learned there… its not about the end result (politics & funding) but how to influence the variables. And there is always an ulterior motive from what we know publicly. That kind use of basic information is BY Constitutional LAW, is only to be used against a known enemy, in military operations and that is not a government function… let me just say Google has no business providing that information, unless they SEE an actual crime. They are not going to tell you why, so how the hell are you going to know giving that data is appropriate! This desperate need to directly violate privacy, is a government need to prove their very large, expensive existence, certainly doesn’t belong in a free society (buuut maybe were just fighting for freedom, we haven’t “earned” it yet, horse hockey!) That is why the law was written, its supposed to protect innocent people, just giving it up, even with your limited incite process, says a lot to me about your commitment to the people. What happened to “don’t be evil”. How bout “don’t be stupid!”

    I actually decided not to buy two of your products because now… nothing is secure. And yes I do research negative subjects, not cause I enjoy it but who’s to say I’m not terrorist! or worse! Hey wait a minute, didn’t Hitler ban like… reading, music, guns, writing certain things… Oh yeah and then people! IF Google is not big enough to stand for our basic rights, who the Hell is. Government is already trying to tax the internet, once they have that, they won’t have to ask your cooperation… they’ll just take the information! If the public said sure you data to hack trade secrets about everything Google, so we (Government) can find criminals and do better things… how would that change things in the Google World?? Thank You for giving me a place to express myself. Apologizes to any one who fell asleep!

  • Gary says:

    The Government has many years ago grown to the “Big Brother” level. They have access to your employment and pay records, your banking and credit records, your driving and insurance records, your telephone records, your internet browsing, e-mail, facebook, and online purchase records, and pretty soon, they will have all of your health records as well. It’s pretty crazy that it has come this far. They have more info about us right now than Hitler ever had. We’re screwed. The sad thing is that most people don’t even worry about it because Obama says we shouldn’t. Reminiscent of the Pied Piper?

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