Government searching personal data without warrent

Respect for the privacy and security of data you store with Google underpins our approach to producing data in response to legal requests. When we receive such a request, our team reviews the request to make sure it satisfies legal requirements and Google's policies. Generally speaking, for us to produce any data, the request must be made in writing, signed by an authorized official of the requesting agency and issued under an appropriate law.


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If we believe a request is overly broad, we'll seek to narrow it. How many of these requests result in Google producing some data? Has Google successfully narrowed requests before? Yes, we often successfully narrow the scope of requests. For example, in Google was the only major search company that refused a U. We objected to the subpoena, and eventually a court denied the government's request. In some cases we receive a request for all information associated with a Google account, and we may ask the requesting agency to limit it to a specific product or service.

What if I want to give law enforcement my Google account records? You can. Google, however, requires valid legal process before we will produce data in response to a request from a government agency even if the request is being made on your behalf , absent an emergency situation. In light of the types of legal requests covered in the Transparency Report, what can a user do to view their own data and also make plans for the future?

Expertise. Insights. Illumination.

Google empowers our users to view and control their own data. Using Takeout , users can export or create an archive of their Google data. Using the Inactive Account Manager , users can decide what should happen to their data in the event that they have been inactive for a certain period of time. We highly encourage our users to try these tools to manage data and digital legacy.

Does a law enforcement agency in the U. The government needs legal process—such as a subpoena, court order or search warrant—to force Google to disclose user information. Exceptions can be made in certain emergency cases, though even then the government can't force Google to disclose.

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What kinds of emergency cases? Sometimes we voluntarily disclose user information to government agencies when we believe that doing so is necessary to prevent death or serious physical harm to someone. The law allows us to make these exceptions, such as in cases involving kidnapping or bomb threats.

Emergency requests must contain a description of the emergency and an explanation of how the information requested might prevent the harm. Any information we provide in response to the request is limited to what we believe would help prevent the harm. How can law enforcement send legal requests to Google? Law Enforcement authorities can submit data requests to Google Inc.

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Acceptance of legal process by any of these means does not waive any objections. LERS is a system in which a verified law enforcement agent can securely submit a legal request for user data, view the status of the submitted request, and download the response submitted by Google. Is the system secure? Each law enforcement agent accessing the system has a unique user account provisioned by Google and is required to login with 2-step authentication.

LERS is an interface through which approved government authorities can submit legal requests.

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Google reviews each government request and uses LERS to respond appropriately in accordance with applicable laws. The same legal standards apply to LERS submitted process as apply to legal process submitted to Google via other methods. What types of legal requests does Google receive from U.

By far the most common is the subpoena, followed by search warrants. This law was passed in , before the web as we know it today even existed.

Google helps law enforcement by handing over data without a warrant, EPIC claims

It has failed to keep pace with how people use the Internet today. What's the difference between a subpoena, a search warrant and a court order under ECPA? What information can a government agency get from Google with each? It's complex, but here's a summary of the different forms of legal process covered by ECPA: Subpoena Of the three types of ECPA legal process for stored information, the subpoena has the lowest threshold for a government agency to obtain. In many jurisdictions, including the federal system, there is no requirement that a judge or magistrate review a subpoena before the government can issue it.

A government agency can use a subpoena to compel Google to disclose only specific types of information listed in the statute. For example, a valid subpoena for your Gmail address could compel us to disclose the name that you listed when creating the account, and the IP addresses from which you created the account and signed in and signed out with dates and times. Subpoenas can be used by the government in both criminal and civil cases.

To receive an ECPA court order, a government agency must present specific facts to a judge or magistrate demonstrating that the requested information is relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation. To obtain one, a government agency must make a request to a judge or magistrate and meet a relatively high burden of proof: demonstrating "probable cause" to believe that contraband or certain information related to a crime is presently in the specific place to be searched.

A warrant must specify the place to be searched and the things being sought. It can be used to compel the disclosure of the same information as an ECPA subpoena or court order—but also a user's search query information and private content stored in a Google Account, such as Gmail messages, documents, photos and YouTube videos.

An ECPA search warrant is available only in criminal investigations. The video below provides an overview of how we review and respond to ECPA search warrants. Way of a Warrant. Some US federal and local government agencies can ask courts to require companies to disclose user information in real-time. They fall into two categories: wiretaps and pen register and trap and trace orders.

Wiretap A wiretap order requires a company to hand over information that includes the content of communications in real-time. Of all the government requests than can be issued under ECPA, wiretap orders are the hardest to obtain. To satisfy legal requirements, a government agency must demonstrate that: a someone is committing a crime listed in the Wiretap Act, b the wiretap will collect information about that crime, and c the crime involves the telephone number or account that will be tapped. If you receive a legal request concerning my account, will you tell me about it?

I received an email from Google saying that someone has requested information related to my account. What does this mean?


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It means we've received a legal request to disclose information that's either stored in your Google account or associated with it. Just because we receive a request doesn't necessarily mean that we did—or will—disclose any of the requested information.


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  7. We have a rigorous process for reviewing these requests against legal requirements and Google's policies. What can I do about a request like this? You may wish to consult a lawyer to discuss your options. In our notice to you, we will provide information so that you can contact the requesting party with questions about the legal process. We will also provide a copy of the legal process upon request, although we may have to redact some information before sending it to you. One of the suspects later confessed and voluntarily turned over his cell phone so agents could review his calls.

    The main difference between a search warrant and the court orders used in Carpenter is that a warrant requires a higher threshold of proof that a government search will result in evidence related to a crime. To get a signal so it can make or receive a call, a cell phone establishes a radio connection with a nearby tower called a cell site. As the user moves, the device constantly scans for nearby towers for the strongest signal. Carriers also track the numbers involved, and the cell sites where a call began and ended. As people continue to use their devices to send and store more sensitive data—about their finances and health records, for example—the courts must make sure law enforcement is held to the probable cause standard required to obtain a warrant, Wessler said.

    A recent Supreme Court case— United States v.