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Google stepping up fight to limit government access to emails

January 28, 2013|By Jessica Guynn
  • Google is stepping up its fight to change federal law to make it more difficult for law enforcement to gain access to emails and other content stored on cloud services without a search warrant.
Google is stepping up its fight to change federal law to make it more difficult… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)

Google is stepping up its fight to change federal law to make it more difficult for law enforcement to gain access to emails and other content stored on cloud services without a search warrant.

The search giant, which says it gets about 1,400 requests a month from U.S. authorities for users’ emails and documents, wants content in the cloud to have the same legal protection as documents stored on a hard drive or in a filing cabinet.

Google, which has come under fire for its own treatment of people’s data, used the occasion of Data Privacy Day to rally support.

The issue gained public attention when government surveillance of Gen. David Petraeus’ email correspondence revealed an extramarital affair. The question many people asked at the time: If the director of the CIA cannot keep the FBI from rummaging through his private Gmail account, what digital privacy protections do ordinary citizens have?

Not many, privacy advocates say. The Electronic Communications Privacy Act was written in 1986 and does not take into account how people use the Internet today.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, who helped write the original law, said technology has outpaced the law.

He added language to a bill last year that would have updated the law but the language was removed. Leahy has pledged to introduce electronic-privacy legislation this year.

Law enforcement says rewriting the law would slow or impede investigations.

ALSO:

Senate panel OKs update to communications privacy law

Petraeus case triggers concerns about Americans' online privacy

Google: U.S. again leads world in requests for users' information

Follow me on Twitter @jguynn


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