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Government Demanding More And More Info On Google Users Without Any Oversight


Google’s latest transparency report, once again, highlights why we need ECPA reform in the US as soon as possible. ECPA — the Electronic Communications Privacy Act — is an outdated law that was supposed to be about protecting user privacy, but was written nearly three decades ago and now does exactly the opposite. Beyond being complex in ridiculous and unnecessary ways, things that were true decades ago are no longer the case. For example, the idea that emails left for 180 days on a server no longer need a warrant because under ECPA they are considered “abandoned.” Whereas in the real world, where all email lives on servers for quite some time, that idea makes no sense.

Either way, the report makes clear that US government agencies are well aware that they can go trolling through Google to get information on people with little oversight. Requests — especially requests that are purely a subpoena (with no judicial oversight) appear to continue to rise:

The largest part of that chart is the government subpoenas, meaning no judge had to look them over first:

68 percent of the requests Google received from government entities in the U.S. were through subpoenas. These are requests for user-identifying information, issued under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (“ECPA”), and are the easiest to get because they typically don’t involve judges.

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