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Intersection: Sidewalks & Public Space

Chapter by Melissa Ngo

"The Myth of Security Under Camera Surveillance"


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    NPR: Google Explains How It Handles Police Requests For Users’ Data

    NPR reports on Internet services giant Google explaining how it handles requests from law enforcement officials for users’ personal data and how this affects individual privacy:

    Google wants you to know you’re being watched. Or rather, the company wants you to know how and when the police get to watch what you do online.

    For the first time, the company has posted its policies for when it gives up users’ information to the government. It’s part of a broader company strategy to push for tougher privacy laws.

    Tech companies don’t usually dwell on the subject of the authorities looking at your stuff, but that’s exactly what Google Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer David Drummond is doing in a special “Frequently Asked Questions” page posted Monday. [...]

    The company has posted the information for the four Google products that attract the most requests from police. For Google Voice, for instance, you can look up what the police would need to listen in to your voice mail.

    It says they need a search warrant — which means they’d first have to show a judge “probable cause” of a crime. Police face less of a challenge, though, to find out who owns a particular Gmail address. All that takes is a subpoena — no probable cause required, and — often — no judge. [...]

    Or maybe Google is looking for a little cover. For the past few years, the company has maintained that, broadly speaking, online content should always require a warrant. But that’s not clear in federal law.

    Posting these policies may make it easier for the company to resist pressure from a government agency looking for quiet cooperation, and it also buttresses Google’s longstanding lobbying effort to put explicit warrant protection into federal law.

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