New data, more facts: an update to the Transparency Report

Cross-posted from the Official Google Blog.

We first launched the Transparency Report in 2010 to help the public learn about the scope of government requests for user data. With recent revelations about government surveillance, calls for companies to make encryption keys available to police, and a wide range of proposals, both in and out of the U.S., to expand surveillance powers throughout the world, the issues today are more complicated than ever. Some issues, like ECPA reform, are less complex, and we’re encouraged by the broad support in Congress for legislation that would codify a standard requiring warrants for communications content.

Google’s position remains consistent: We respect the important role of the government in investigating and combating security threats, and we comply with valid legal process. At the same time, we’ll fight on behalf of our users against unlawful requests for data or mass surveillance. We also work to make sure surveillance laws are transparent, principled, and reasonable.

Today’s Transparency Report update
With this in mind, we’re adding some new details to our Transparency Report that we’re releasing today.

  • Emergency disclosure requests. We’ve expanded our reporting on requests for information we receive in emergency situations. These emergency disclosure requests come from government agencies seeking information to save the life of a person who is in peril (like a kidnapping victim), or to prevent serious physical injury (like a threatened school shooting). We have a process for evaluating and fast-tracking these requests, and in true emergencies we can provide the necessary data without delay. The Transparency Report previously included this number for the United States, but we’re now reporting for every country that submits this sort of request.
  • Preservation requests. We’re also now reporting on government requests asking us to set aside information relating to a particular user’s account. These requests can be made so that information needed in an investigation is not lost while the government goes through the steps to get the formal legal process asking us to disclose the information. We call these “preservation requests” and because they don’t always lead to formal data requests, we keep them separate from the country totals we report. Beginning with this reporting period, we’re reporting this number for every country.

In addition to this new data, the report shows that we’ve received 30,138 requests from around the world seeking information about more than 50,585 users/accounts; we provided information in response to 63 percent of those requests. We saw slight increases in the number of requests from governments in Europe (2 percent) and Asia/Pacific (7 percent), and a 22 percent increase in requests from governments in Latin America.

The fight for increased transparency
Sometimes, laws and gag-orders prohibit us from notifying someone that a request for their data has been made. There are some situations where these restrictions make sense, and others not so much. We will fight—sometimes through lengthy court action—for our users’ right to know when data requests have been made. We’ve recently succeeded in a couple of important cases.

First, after years of persistent litigation in which we fought for the right to inform Wikileaks of government requests for their data, we were successful in unsealing court documents relating to these requests. We’re now making those documents available to the public here and here.

Second, we’ve fought to be more transparent regarding the U.S. government’s use of National Security Letters, or NSLs. An NSL is a special type of subpoena for user information that the FBI issues without prior judicial oversight. NSLs can include provisions prohibiting the recipient from disclosing any information about it. Reporters speculated in 2013 that we challenged the constitutionality of NSLs; after years of litigation with the government in several courts across multiple jurisdictions, we can now confirm that we challenged 19 NSLs and fought for our right to disclose this to the public. We also recently won the right to release additional information about those challenges and the documents should be available on the public court dockets soon.

Finally, just yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 338-88 to pass the USA Freedom Act of 2015. This represents a significant step toward broader surveillance reform, while preserving important national security authorities. Read more on our U.S. Public Policy blog.

Posted by Richard Salgado, Legal Director, Law Enforcement and Information Security

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New numbers and a new look for our Transparency Report

We launched the Transparency Report in 2010 to show how laws and policies affect access to information online, including law enforcement orders for user data and government requests to remove information. Since then, many other companies have launched their own transparency reports, and we’ve been excited to see our industry come together around transparency.

After doing things the same way for nearly five years, we thought it was time to give the Transparency Report an update. So today, as we release data about requests from governments to remove content from our services for the ninth time, we’re doing it with a new look and some new features that we hope will make the information more meaningful, and continue to push the envelope on the story we can tell with this kind of information.

More about that shortly—first, the data highlights. From June to December 2013, we received 3,105 government requests to remove 14,637 pieces of content. You may notice that this total decreased slightly from the first half of 2013; this is due to a spike in requests from Turkey during that period, which has since returned to lower levels. Meanwhile, the number of requests from Russia increased by 25 percent compared to the last reporting period. Requests from Thailand and Italy are on the rise as well. In the second half of 2013, the top three products for which governments requested removals were Blogger (1,066 requests), Search (841 requests) and YouTube (765 requests). In the second half of 2013, 38 percent of government removal requests cited defamation as a reason for removal, 16 percent cited obscenity or nudity, and 11 percent cited privacy or security.

As for the redesign, we’ve worked with our friends at Blue State Digital on a more interactive Transparency Report that lets us include additional information—like explanations of our process—and highlight stats. We’ve also added examples of nearly 30 actual requests we’ve received from governments around the world. For example, we have an annotation that gives a bit of descriptive information about our first government request from Kosovo, when law enforcement requested the removal of two YouTube videos showing minors fighting. If you’re looking for details on the content types and reasons for removal, use the Country explorer to dig into those details for each of the listed countries.

Our Transparency Report is certainly not a comprehensive view of censorship online. However, it does provide a lens on the things that governments and courts ask us to remove, underscoring the importance of transparency around the processes governing such requests. We hope that you’ll take the time to explore the new report to learn more about government removals across Google.

Posted by Trevor Callaghan, Director, Legal Continua a leggere

Promoting transparency around in Europe

When eight technology companies presented a plan this month to reform government surveillance, a key request concerned transparency. At Google, we were the first company to publish a transparency report detailing the requests we receive from governments around the world to bring down content or hand over information on users.

But Google’s report represents only a narrow snapshot. It is limited to a single company. Imagine instead if all the requests for information on Internet users and for takedowns of web content in a country could be published. This would give a much more effective picture of the state of Internet freedom. As the year draws to a close, we’re happy to report that Panoptykon, a Polish NGO, published this month a preliminary Internet transparency report for Poland and Fores, a Stockholm-based think tank, issued a study in Sweden.

In Poland and Sweden, we helped initiate these transparency efforts and supported them financially. NGOs in six other European countries are working on national transparency reports. Our Estonian-supported transparency coalition already published a report last spring. In addition, NGOs in Hong Kong moved ahead over the summer with their own report. In Strasbourg, the Council of Europe recently held an important conference on the subject and hopefully will move ahead to present a series of recommendations on transparency for its 47 members.

Each transparency campaign takes a different approach – we hope this process of experimentation will help all of us learn. The Estonian effort, titled Project 451, focuses on content removals, not government surveillance, because the authors believe this is the most important issue in their country. The name of Project “451″ refers to HTTP Status Code 451, defined as “unavailable for legal reasons” and the report found that many web platforms were taking legal content down due to fears of legal liability.

The new Polish and Swedish reports attempt to shed light on government requests for information on users. Fores contacted 339 Swedish authorities and found that more than a third had requested data about users or takedowns of user-uploaded content. Panoptykon uncovered that Polish telcos received 1.76 million requests for user information in 2012, while Internet companies polled received approximately 7,500. In addition, Panoptykon discovered that many Polish government requests for information on users were based on a flawed or unclear legal basis.

Admittedly, both the Swedish and Polish reports remain incomplete. Not all Internet companies participated. Much relevant data must be missing. Like with our own Google report, we hope to continue filling in the holes in the future. Our aim is to see this campaign gather momentum because the bottom line is transparency is essential to a debate over government surveillance powers.

Posted by William Echikson, Head of Free Expression, Europe, Middle East and Africa
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Transparency Report: Government removal requests rise

Cross-posted with Official Google Blog

We launched the Transparency Report in 2010 to provide hard evidence of how laws and policies affect access to information online. Today, for the eighth time, we’re releasing new numbers showing requests from governments to remove content from our services. From January to June 2013, we received 3,846 government requests to remove 24,737 pieces of content—a 68 percent increase over the second half of 2012.

Over the past four years, one worrying trend has remained consistent: governments continue to ask us to remove political content. Judges have asked us to remove information that’s critical of them, police departments want us to take down videos or blogs that shine a light on their conduct, and local institutions like town councils don’t want people to be able to find information about their decision-making processes. These officials often cite defamation, privacy and even copyright laws in attempts to remove political speech from our services. In this particular reporting period, we received 93 requests to take down government criticism and removed content in response to less than one third of them. Four of the requests were submitted as copyright claims.

You can read more about these requests in the Notes section of the Transparency Report. In addition, we saw a significant increase in the number of requests we received from two countries in the first half of 2013:

  • There was a sharp increase in requests from Turkey. We received 1,673 requests from Turkish authorities to remove content from our platforms, nearly a tenfold increase over the second half of last year. About two-thirds of the total requests—1,126 to be exact—called for the removal of 1,345 pieces of content related to alleged violations of law 5651.
  • Another place where we saw an increase was Russia, where there has been an uptick in requests since a blacklist law took effect last fall. We received 257 removal requests during this reporting period, which is more than double the number of requests we received throughout 2012.

While the information we present in our Transparency Report is certainly not a comprehensive view of censorship online, it does demonstrate a worrying upward trend in the number of government requests, and underscores the importance of transparency around the processes governing such requests. As we continue to add data, we hope it will become increasingly useful and informative in policy debates and decisions around the world.

Posted by Susan Infantino, Legal Director
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EUhackathon 2013: Coding for Transparency

The challenge at this year’s EUhackathon was to shine a light on government surveillance during a 24-hour coding marathon – a particularly pertinent subject given recent headlines. European Commission Vice-President Viviane Reding saluted the coders at the Awards Ceremony, saying “you’re hacking for your rights.”

A total of 29 coders from 13 countries participated. Team Frontwise from the Netherlands won the first prize with its BIGSIS – Privacy Ranking app. Reding gave them a EUR 5,000 award. BIGSIS is a Chrome plugin which “visualises your exposure to web services while you’re browsing the internet. It displays with which governments this data can be shared.”

All the competing projects can be found at the Visualizing.org website. Take a look at the coders in action.

[Youtube link to official movie

As well as from these technical achievements, the EUhackathon hosted a series of discussions on government surveillance, bringing together academics represented by Professors Milton Mueller and Pompeu Casanovas, civil society leaders including Trevor Timm from the Freedom of the Press Foundation and Joe McNamee from the European Digital Rights initiative (EDRi), and international officials such as UNICRI’s Francesca Bosco.

Google’s been at the forefront of calls for transparency about government surveillance for many years. Every six months, we publish detailed statistics on the number of requests we get from governments to access user data – and we’ve done that since 2009. We’ve supported the EUhackathon for the last three years because data visualisation is a great way of making statistics more meaningful, and of raising awareness of an issue that has serious implications for democratic societies.

Posted by Marco Pancini, Senior Counsel, Brussels
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Hackers will shine a light on government surveillance

The EUhackathon returns to Brussels on Tuesday for its highly topical third edition. Thirty computer programmers from 13 countries will participate in the 24-hour coding marathon, entitled Hack4YourRights. Their goal is to create insightful visualisations that illustrate the extent of government access to citizens’ online private communications.

The coders will be based at the Brussels Googleplex as they work through the night to transform large data sets including network access analyses, corporate transparency reports and Freedom of Information Act requests. Their goal is to shine a light on the degree of government surveillance in various countries around the globe and empower citizens to stand up for their fundamental rights. Greater transparency and awareness are critical to ensuring government surveillance is only used when necessary and proportionate.

After a guaranteed sleepless night of coding, the programmers head to the European Parliament for an awards ceremony hosted by MEP Petru Luhan. It will include a debate between representatives from government academia and civil society. And the European Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, Viviane Reding, will announce the winner of the EUR5,000 prize for best data visualisation.

Google and Facebook are sponsoring the event. NGOs lending their support include Access Now, the Center for Democracy & Technology , Digitale Gesellschaft, the European Digital Rights initiative, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Net Users’ Rights Protection Association, the Open Knowledge Foundation, quintessenz, Transparency International and visualizing.org.

We think it’s vitally important to shine a light on how government actions could affect our users. When we first launched our Transparency Report in early 2010, there wasn’t much data out there about how governments hamper the free flow of information on the web. But we’re heartened that in the past years and months, more companies have begun to share their statistics too. Our hope is that over time, more data and visualisations will bolster public debate about how we can keep the Internet free and open and protect our privacy and security online.

Posted by Marco Pancini, Senior Policy Counsel, Google
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Visualizing Online Takedown Requests: Challenge Winners!

Alexandra Papas is Community and Events Coordinator at Visualizing.org.

In our latest challenge, designers and creative coders visualized Google’s Transparency Report with the aim of adding context or insight to our understanding of the openness of the internet. In the report, Google discloses the number of requests received from copyright owners and governments to remove information from their services. Of the fantastic projects that were submitted—check them all out in our gallery—judges selected projects that best made sense of the complexity of the data, offered innovation in approach and design, and compelled us to explore more.

Congratulations to Frontwise with their winning project Google Online Takedown Requests Browser. Judges appreciated its beautiful design and the ample functionality to discover patterns and trends, including filters by dataset, time period, copyright owner, and target domains. Additionally, the organization by time and volume and distribution between an outer ring and inner ring of the monthly overview of requests and targeted domains or products presented the data neatly and effectively.

Simon Schulz is awarded second place for Country Based Google Transparency Report. As the only project to offer a detailed breakdown of the data by country rather than a more summary approach, judges felt the project provided an important point of view, one that could be a nice complement to the Transparency Report itself.

Prism by Felix Gonda takes third place for its focus—breaking down the volume of the data by country of origin, reason of request, and Google’s products—and fluid interactivity that allowed easy exploration and comparison. Judges also noted its polish and creative solution.

Frontwise, Simon, and Felix will receive $3250, $1250, and $500 respectively for their great work. Thank you to Google, our jurors, and all participants!

Want to try your hand at another project? Take a look at our Visualizing Hospital Price Data challenge, offering $30,000 in prizes. We look forward to seeing your work!


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Better Permits, Better Cities: How Hacking City Policy Can Improve the Public Realm

Jake Levitas is a civic designer, organizer, and activist based in San Francisco. Cross-posted from Medium.com.

Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody. — Jane Jacobs

Cities are at their best when they change with their citizens; when, to quote Rebar principal Matthew Passmore, “a city’s evolution keeps pace with its own cultural evolution.” Unfortunately, cities are often preventing themselves from doing just that—from being responsive enough to their own changing dynamics to continue existing as accurate reflections of and platforms for their own cultures. Outdated permitting processes are keeping a large swath of promising projects in art, design, technology, and other modes of expression from ever becoming part of the urban landscape. Along the way, cities are missing opportunities to add economic and cultural value in a time of constrained resources.

In other words: cities can be more healthy, engaging, beautiful and productive if they make it easier for citizens to contribute to making them so.

Historically, projects that alter the public realm have been generally divided into two camps: those that play by the rules (city-sanctioned installations, community murals) and those that don’t (graffiti, vandalism). Recently, this dichotomy has been disrupted by projects that make practical and aesthetic improvements to public space—but don’t always ask for permission. This approach is driven by citizens with the passion to improve their cities and the impatience to not wait through the full public permitting process to take action. But what if that process weren’t so intimidating, time-consuming, and costly for the average city resident? Could we make cities better, faster?

Why Civic Design Policy is Like Rocket Science
In between powerful ideas and powerful change lies powerful bureaucracy.

Internally, city governments are tasked with ensuring that public infrastructure and funds are used safely and responsibly. Permits that utilize these funds or resources are, for good reason, a big part of this.

But from an outside perspective—for community members, designers, artists, architects, makers—the process of getting a project approved and permitted by city departments might as well be rocket science. The entire tactical urbanism movement exists largely as a band-aid solution for citizens who lack the resources, time, or patience to navigate this complex approval system, and prefer taking matters into their own hands to create local change. A key question moving forward is how this process can be opened up to look less like rocket science, and more like the DIY science kits that turn kids everywhere into excited, engaged brainstormers. How can we make the permitting process sexier to better engage the average citizen?

Let’s get into the details a little bit. Say you want to install an Urban Prototyping project like Urban Parasol in your city—attaching a modular shade structure to a light pole. In San Francisco, the light pole you’re attaching to is managed by SFPUC, the sidewalks people are standing on underneath your structure are managed by SFDPW, and the street thoroughfare your overhang stretches above is managed by SFMTA. You might need permits and approvals from all of these agencies before you even think of hitting the street—and often, existing permits aren’t set up to handle these types of ideas.

While you’re at it, you might want to talk to someone in the SF Arts Commission, City Administrator’s Office, Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services, or your local Community Benefit District about gaining local support for the project. Then you’ll need to make sure it doesn’t make the area less beautiful, more dangerous, or more prone to attract noisy late-night revelry in the eyes of the neighbors nearby. And finally, you’ll also need a way to pay for the material costs, and find a way to get your work paid for if you’re not planning to donate your time as a civic volunteer. All of this work is on top of the citizens’ principal focus of creating the best public art piece, design intervention, or interactive installation they possibly can—which is a huge job in itself.

Understandably, it’s hard for most citizens who want to contribute to know where to begin. The process isn’t made easier by the fact that most government websites are difficult to navigate (though there are exceptions!), and most departments don’t have a liaison dedicated to making this process easy and accessible for the community.

Better permits will allow artists and designers to focus more on what they’re good at—creating great civic projects—while allowing city planners to focus on their own invaluable strengths—navigating the crucial regulatory nuances of City Hall that can make these projects a reality.

Why It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way
Cities want to help, and the barriers aren’t as big as they seem.

Here’s the good news: the obstacles to getting public design projects approved, built, and installed are actually not as complicated as they seem—and they’re pretty much exactly what you would think they are. In speaking with city officials in several San Francisco agencies recently, they all outlined the same five barriers as the root causes of bureaucratic slowness and difficulty. I’ve listed these below, along with some basic steps toward getting around them:

  1. Liability + injury potential: Perhaps the biggest obstacle from a legal perspective is determining who is responsible if someone is injured or otherwise harmed directly or indirectly by a project. Most projects need someone to cover liability associated with them, which sometimes means working out a deal with the city or a local business owner who already has a policy in place. This can be tricky but certainly isn’t impossible, and could be streamlined by the city to make it even easier—for example, by creating a guide that helps citizens understand the liability process and their options for getting approved.
  2. Citizen complaints: Many projects can be derailed due to concerns from locals over issues like noise, aesthetics, traffic, or safety. Working with the community and conducting preliminary testing and meetings before a full installation can go a long way toward easing the public’s mind and garnering support for a project
  3. Funding + procurement: Procurement requirements—standards for the entities and people that can provide services to and receive funding from the city—can be a barrier for individual citizens and smaller organizations to create real projects that take advantage of city improvement funds and other public funding. There are a few easy ways to help remedy this: designers and artists can work through nonprofits and firms that are already city vendors; the city can make it easier for citizens to both become vendors and/or connect with existing vendors; and the city can also fast-track projects with external funding (from grants, individuals, or crowd funding) to increase the value they are able to capture from outside City Hall.
  4. Lack of interagency dialog: Every city has a web of responsibilities that is often spread across a complicated web of departments and individuals. However, most cities lack an interagency review board or task force to streamline the process of approving public design projects. Others make it difficult for departments to simply talk to each other, making it harder to find the creative regulatory solutions sometimes necessary to bring projects to life. We’ve started forming an Urban Prototyping Task Force in San Francisco to help get the ball rolling on these issues, and a culture of dialog can also be taken much further when it is promoted from the top by a visionary mayor or planning director.
  5. Lack of a good public interface: As mentioned above, there’s generally no central government touch point for citizens who want to design for the public realm. Ideally this touch point should be a combination of 1) well-designed and accessible informational resources and 2) dedicated staff members to support them and interface with the public directly. In San Francisco, we’re fortunate to have the SF Better Streets initiative—a simply fantastic effort that gets closer to this interface than anything else I’ve personally seen.

Finally, most city staff members I’ve met with are just as frustrated with the typical regulatory process as we on the outside are—and they’re actively looking for great new citizen-led projects and the means to take them forward. This may be somewhat unique to San Francisco, birthplace of the parklet, but my sense from speaking with officials in other cities is that the broader culture is changing—the permits themselves just haven’t been able to catch up yet.

Where We Go From Here
We know the problems—so let’s start tackling them together.

If the good news is that barriers to permitting civic design projects are well-known and surmountable, the better news is that many cities are already heading in the right direction. San Francisco’s groundbreaking work creating the parklet permit has been well-documented, and Boston’s City Hall to Go program is another great example of making city services and processes more accessible to the general public. Even more importantly, the conversations between City Hall insiders and outsiders—those in need of city approvals and those providing them—have become much more frequent and robust in recent years—a welcome change from the sometimes stereotypical bureaucratic Iron Curtain. Technology and new forms of engagement are only making these interactions easier.

To be clear, “hacking” the permitting process—rethinking it to make it more efficient, effective, and attractive—isn’t necessarily going to be easy, fast, or fun. It took about five years to formally establish the parklet permitting process in San Francisco. If we’re going to hack city policy successfully, our best tool is the continued dialog between citizens and government. Understanding each others’ needs and contexts is the first step to change, and it’s already starting to happen today.

Every citizen can be a part of this change by tracking down supportive officials in the right departments, sharing successful project examples, and organizing open discussions (like this one) to promote understanding and (most importantly) action. Together, we can ensure that better permits will create better cities.


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Calling for entries to the EU Hackathon

The European Union Hackathon is back. For the third straight year, Google is supporting two days of serious fun in September for programmers to code an application that shines a light on an important policy issue. This year’s theme is privacy – and contestants are being asked to work on products that visualize government government access to citizens’ private communications online.

Entries are now being accepted via this online application unti June 15, 2013 at noon CET. Complete information about the event is available on this website. Help us spread the word to attract talented applicants, or apply yourself!

The hackathon will take place on September 24th-25th, with programming sessions held in the Google Brussels office. MEP Petru Luhan is hosting the event’s awards ceremony on WednesdaySeptember 25th from 16.15 to 18.00 at the European Parliament. European Commission Vice-President Viviane Reding is scheduled to join the ceremonies.

In addition to Google’s support, a broad network of civil society groups are working on the event. They include Access Now, the Center for Democracy & Technology, Digitale Gesellschaft, the European Digital Rights initiative, the Electronic Frontier Foundation , Google, the Net Users’ Rights Protection Association, the Open Knowledge Foundation, quintessenz, Transparency International, and visualizing.org.

EUHackathon participants will build data visualizations using data sets from network analysis, corporate transparency reports and Freedom of Information Act requests. Greater transparency and awareness are critical to ensuring government surveillance is only used when necessary and proportionate.

Selected applicants will have their travel and accommodation costs covered and the winner or winning team will be awarded EUR5,000, courtesy of our sponsors. Not to forget, there will also be free food and WiFi.

We look forward to seeing you in September.

Posted by Marco Pancini, Senior Policy Manager, Brussels
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Data Privacy Day: Google’s approach to government requests for user data

Data Privacy Day is recognized every year on January 28 in the US, Canada, and many EU countries (27, according to Wikipedia). In honor of Data Privacy Day 2013, Google SVP and Chief Legal Officer David Drummond wrote for the official Google blog about how Google handles government requests for data. We’re reposting the text from his post, Google’s approach to government requests for user data.

Today, January 28, is Data Privacy Day, when the world recognizes the importance of preserving your online privacy and security.

If it’s like most other days, Google—like many companies that provide online services to users—will receive dozens of letters, faxes and emails from government agencies and courts around the world requesting access to our users’ private account information. Typically this happens in connection with government investigations.

It’s important for law enforcement agencies to pursue illegal activity and keep the public safe. We’re a law-abiding company, and we don’t want our services to be used in harmful ways. But it’s just as important that laws protect you against overly broad requests for your personal information.

To strike this balance, we’re focused on three initiatives that I’d like to share, so you know what Google is doing to protect your privacy and security.

First, for several years we have advocated for updating laws like the U.S. Electronic Communications Privacy Act, so the same protections that apply to your personal documents that you keep in your home also apply to your email and online documents. We’ll continue this effort strongly in 2013 through our membership in the Digital Due Process coalition and other initiatives.

Second, we’ll continue our long-standing strict process for handling these kinds of requests. When government agencies ask for our users’ personal information—like what you provide when you sign up for a Google Account, or the contents of an email—our team does several things:

  • We scrutinize the request carefully to make sure it satisfies the law and our policies. For us to consider complying, it generally must be made in writing, signed by an authorized official of the requesting agency and issued under an appropriate law.
  • We evaluate the scope of the request. If it’s overly broad, we may refuse to provide the information or seek to narrow the request. We do this frequently.
  • We notify users about legal demands when appropriate so that they can contact the entity requesting it or consult a lawyer. Sometimes we can’t, either because we’re legally prohibited (in which case we sometimes seek to lift gag orders or unseal search warrants) or we don’t have their verified contact information.
  • We require that government agencies conducting criminal investigations use a search warrant to compel us to provide a user’s search query information and private content stored in a Google Account—such as Gmail messages, documents, photos and YouTube videos. We believe a warrant is required by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S.Constitution, which prohibits unreasonable search and seizure and overrides conflicting provisions in ECPA.

And third, we work hard to provide you with information about government requests. Today, for example, we’ve added a new section to our Transparency Report that answers many questions you might have. And last week we released data showing that government requests continue to rise, along with additional details on the U.S. legal processes—such as subpoenas, court orders and warrants—that governments use to compel us to provide this information.

We’re proud of our approach, and we believe it’s the right way to make sure governments can pursue legitimate investigations while we do our best to protect your privacy and security.

Posted by David Drummond, Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer


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