Wednesday, October 19, 2011

WikiLeaks, Google, and the U.S. Government

In a recent twist in the WikiLeaks investigation Google and Sonic.net were required to give over information on a user, including the email addresses of those contacted within the last 2 years and were prevented from informing the customer - all without a warrant or showing probable cause. Under the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act the government can obtain emails, cellphone-location records, and other digital documents, but does not have to obtain a search warrant and only show "reasonable grounds" that the information is "relevant and material" to the investigation.

A coalition of companies including Microsoft and AT&T are lobbying to get the law changed, but if the government uses this strategy in more cases it may change how likely some customers are to use services related to the types of information listed above.

As part of it's transparency efforts Google actually tracks and publishes the requests, as well as the percentage of requests that it complies with.

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