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Google Scores Small, Significant Win in Supreme Court Ruling

June 23, 2015 - Written By Tom Dawson

As developed countries like the United States and United Kingdom become more like surveillance states (depending on who you ask, of course) it’s nice that companies like Google and Apple are willing to stick up for our privacy. Don’t be naive about this however, if Google want people to keep on using their services, and make money from advertising, they need to make sure that their services are free from the prying eyes of governments. In a strange and somewhat unassuming ruling this week, Google has scored a small, yet significant victory where protecting user privacy is concerned.

As Re/Code is reporting, the Supreme Court have given in to Google’s lengthy amicus brief in a small case pertaining to Los Angeles. The case that Google was worried about focuses around law enforcement’s ability to seize information from Hotel registries, without the need to present or even seek out a warrant beforehand. You might be wondering just why Google cares about Hotel registries, but as Justice Sonia Sotomayor noted, the Los Angeles law was written in a broad manner, allowing it to be extended to any business, including Google and friends. As such, Google spent the time and money to put forward the lengthy amicus brief (which can be found at the source link below) in order to overturn the ruling, which the court did with a result of 5 – 4. The brief is detailed and covers everything you could think of, but the golden nugget explains that the government or law enforcement agencies could use a “combination of the third-party doctrine and the administrative-search doctrine to compel a business — including, perhaps, an Internet-based service provider — to collect and retain information from its customers”.

While Apple seems to be spouting the same old line of “you aren’t the product”, it seems like Google is actually willing to do something about surveillance and data seizures in the US. After all, if Apple are so vexed over the issue, why did they not put forward their own amicus brief? Either way, this is a small, yet significant victory for Google and friends, and should hopefully set a precedent throughout the rest of the US.