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AH Tech Talk: Google’s On your Side! Tells Cops To Get a Warrant for Email and other Cloud Data

January 23, 2013 - Written By Alexander Maxham

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Google has demanded that the authorities give them court-issued warrants before the search giant will divulge the contents of Gmail and other cloud information, from their other services like Google+ and Google Drive. This surfaces after Google publicly announced that more than two-thirds of the user data Google forwards to different Government agencies across the US is handed over without probable cause. “Google requires a ECPA search warrant for contents of Gmail and other services based on the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which prevents unreasonable search and seizure” stated Chris Gaither, a Google Spokesman.

So do we agree with Google requiring a warrant for the government to get access to our data on Google’s servers? Of course, we do. We don’t want the government having access to everything we do on Google. Especially since the most of us basically live in Google’s ecosystem, you’d be surprised how much of your data is still on Google’s servers. Especially if you’d be using any of Google’s services for a few years.

Now the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, was adopted at a time when e-mail wasn’t stored on servers for a long time. But as you all know, technology has significantly changed since 1986. In the 1980s, email that was more than 6 months old was assumed abandoned, which means the government could take it without probable-cause warrant.

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The Google Transparency data report shown above is limited as it does not include requests that are under the Patriot Act, which can include National Security Letters with gag orders attached. The data also doesn’t include anti-terrorism eavesdropping court orders known as FISA orders or any dragnet surveillance programs legalized in 2008, as those are secret as well.

So is it a good thing that Google is wanting a warrant for the authorities to check out our data? I really think an amendment needs to be made to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, because I know I keep emails that are older than 6 months and use them for reference, which means they are not abandoned. How about you?  Of course, changing the law to comport with Google’s interpretation was met with unreceptive members of Congress. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a measure mirroring Google’s interpretation last year. But the bill died a quiet death. And the moves to change this law have been scuttled over and again.

What do you think about this decision by Google? Let us know in the comments below.