Report: Google Lobbying To Tighten Electronic Privacy Law

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January 28, 2013 6:44 a.m.

Google is reportedly helping lead an effort to change electronic privacy law to make it harder for government officials and law enforcement agencies to access users’ emails without warrants, according to statements given by the company’s legal team to Bloomberg on Monday.

Google has been in contact with Web freedom advocacy groups about efforts to reform the 1986 Electronic Commmunications Privacy Act (ECPA), according to the report. The current ECPA allows authorities to request from Google and other companies’ access to users’ Web communications older than six months (180 days) without obtaining a search warrant (only a subpoena is necessary, which does not require a judge to sign off). Google and others, including Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), want to update the law so that a search warrant would be required in more cases. 

Law enforcement agency trade associations are pushing back on these fronts though, arguing that such changes would make it more difficult for them to do their jobs and conduct investigations. 

Google on Monday published a new Q-and-A section in its regularly updated Transparency Report website explaining how it handles requests from government and law enforcement for user data. The move was done in honor of Data Privacy Day, an annual quasi-coordinated effort by tech and Web companies to better inform users about their data protection online. The company last week released updated figures showing it received over 8,000 requests from July to December 2012. 

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