Government requests are up 120 percent
According to Google’s Transparency Report, requests for user information from governments around the globe have risen a whopping 120 percent since 2009.
In a statement, Google said, “While we’ve always known how important transparency is when it comes to government requests, the events of the past year have underscored just how urgent the issue is. From being the first company to disclose information about National Security Letters to fighting for the ability to publish more about FISA requests, we’ve continually advocated for your right to know.”
They’ve produced the above video to address how Google responds to U.S. search warrants while protecting their users, outlining the process for handling requests.
Google explains that they uphold the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which is the part of the Bill of Rights that prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures and requires any warrant to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause. They note that the law requires that government agencies obtain a warrant in order to seek private content.
When Google receives a warrant, there is a Screener assigned, which is a person that sorts and prioritizes search warrants so that for instance, child safety issues are immediately addressed.
Then, a warrant is handed over to a Producer who examines the warrant for any errors (kicking it back if there is a spelling error in the user name, and so forth), and then investigates what information Google will provide. Often, they will contact authorities and clarify or assert that perhaps they only really need a smaller amount of information, like emails from the last month instead of all Google Drive, YouTube, Google Plus, Google Maps, Google Wallet, Google Search, Google Voice, and so forth.
Additionally, the Producer makes sure the warrant is even in the right place, instead of say, Facebook, where it should be aimed.
Google’s goal in producing this video is clearly to dispel myths and misunderstandings associated with how they release information to the government about their users.