Jan 25, 2020 - Technology

Google cashes in on law enforcement data requests

In this image, the Amazon, Google, and Facebook logos are portrayed

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Google began capitalizing on law enforcement's request for user data this month, the New York Times reports.

The big picture: Big Tech giants like Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and Microsoft explicitly announce they might seek reimbursement for giving personal data to federal agencies and law enforcement, which they're legally entitled to do.

By the numbers: Google received more than 75,000 global requests for data in the first half of 2019, according to the Times. That's more than Microsoft, but way less than Facebook.

  • Microsoft received only 24,175 data requests from January to June last year. Microsoft says it rejected roughly 26% of those requests.
  • Facebook had more than 128,000 government requests for data in that same time frame, and complied about 73% of the time.
  • Google's "fees range from $45 for a subpoena and $60 for a wiretap to $245 for a search warrant," the Times reports.

Why it matters, per the NYT: "Some Silicon Valley companies have for years forgone such charges, which can be difficult to enforce at a large scale and could give the impression that a company aims to profit from legal searches. But privacy experts support such fees as a deterrent to overbroad surveillance."

What they're saying: Google's fees are partially meant to help offset costs of complying with subpoenas and warrants, a Google spokesperson told the Times.

Background: Microsoft's lawsuit challenging the Electronic Communications Privacy act — which Apple, Twitter and Amazon filed in support of — was dismissed by the Justice Department in 2017.

  • Microsoft said that the law, which allows governments access to customers' data, violates its customers' Fourth Amendment rights.
  • The DOJ countered that Microsoft can't argue on behalf of its customers' Fourth Amendment rights — only the customers can.

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