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Google Wants Warrants to Hand Over Your Data

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Google Wants Warrants to Hand Over Your Data

Google

Google apologized for the image, but won't remove it.

Google announced that it is now demanding a probable-cause warrant to release data from its services and cloud storage.

Google reported Wednesday that it required probable-cause, court-issued warrants from law enforcement and government agencies to hand over data, something that seems to contradict the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, according to Wired.

Google announced on its Google Public Policy Blog that 68 percent of the user data it gives to the U.S. government and law enforcement is given without a probable-cause warrant. Only 22 percent of the incidents involved one of these warrants.

The ECPA allows law enforcement to get the data without a warrant if it's been stored for more than six months. This can mean IP addresses, names listed, emails from certain IP addresses or people. However, Google said it holds out for a warrant, which seemed contrary to the heart of the law.

“Google requires an ECPA search warrant for contents of Gmail and other services based on the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which prevents unreasonable search and seizure,” Chris Gaither, a Google spokesman, told Wired.

The ECPA was created in 1986, when no one saved e-mails for more than six months. Thus, the feds thought looking for old e-mail was like looking in a city dump for clues. In 2013, the digital world has changed greatly with the advent of  cloud storage and people now store documents and other information for much longer than six months.
 
So far, this hasn't been a big bone of contention for the government or Google, but there's not been a legal precedent to decide if after six months a warrant should be required or not. Google demanding a warrant means that authorities are kowtowing to the tech titan's demands, but Google has also been lobbying unsuccessfully to change the law. So far, Congress members don't seem eager to help out.
 
We believe the government needing a probable-cause warrant to look at your e-mail is good for the public at large, but Google's decision may lead to a landmark case in the near future -- and there's no guarantee that personal liberty will win.
 
 

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