U.S. government requests for Google user data jump


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The U.S. government wants your information.

It’s flooding Google with requests for personal information about users for criminal investigations, according to a so-called transparency report the Internet search giant released Tuesday.

The number of such requests jumped 29% in six months, Google reported.


U.S. government agencies sent Google 5,950 criminal investigation requests during the first half of 2011 compared with 4,601 requests during the last six months of 2010. Google complied in part or completely with 93% of those requests which can include court orders and subpoenas.

The number of users and accounts affected: 11,057.

‘For the first time, we’re not only disclosing the number of requests for user data, but we’re showing the number of users or accounts that are specified in those requests too. We also recently released the raw data behind the requests. Interested developers and researchers can now take this data and revisualize it in different ways, or mash it up with information from other organizations to test and draw up new hypotheses about government behaviors online,’ Dorothy Chou, a Google senior policy analyst, wrote in a blog post.

Google said it also received 92 requests to remove 757 pieces of content from its services including YouTube. Google complied in part or completely with 63% of those requests.

Google has an agenda here. It wants to spread this kind of information -- albeit incomplete as it does not include certain terrorism-related requests -- to push for reform of federal laws that give law enforcement unfettered access to online communications without a judge’s order.

‘We believe that providing this level of detail highlights the need to modernize laws like the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which regulates government access to user information and was written 25 years ago -- long before the average person had ever heard of email,’ Chou wrote.



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