The New York Times and DigitalTrends recently reported that Google will start charging law enforcement for access to user data it collects. This raises questions as to whether this will discourage law enforcement from making these requests or encourage Google to answer more requests from law enforcement. Requests will reportedly cost $45 for a subpoena, $60 for a wiretap, and $245 for a search warrant.
Charging Law Enforcement May Decrease Information Requests
Right now, law enforcement agencies can make endless requests to Google without getting charged anything. Those requests have drastically increased, so Google intends to offset its costs of complying with warrants and subpoenas by charging for those data requests.
“In the first half of 2019, [Google] received more than 75,000 requests for data on nearly 165,000 accounts worldwide; one in the three of those requests came from the United States.” We will see what the effects of this newly established fee-structure will do to the number of information requests Google receives.
Google Could Be More Open With Their User Data if It Leads To Profit
Although Google’s decision to charge for information requests may lead to a decrease in the requests coming in, they could encourage Google to be more open with user-data. In the past, if Google was approached with an overly broad legal request they may have turned that down until the government came back with a more complete or specific search warrant. Now, if Google profits from these requests, they may be incentivized to answer these requests.
In the scope of Google’s entire business, which in 2018 did $136 billion in revenue, the few extra million it stands to get from these information requests will be a drop in the bucket compared to its main line of business. Google’s entire business model has relied on using data to optimize its products and personalize its services to each individual user.
Google is a Data Company, Not a Privacy Company
Some companies are heavily dedicated to privacy, and Google is not one of these companies. Google’s products have prioritized convenience and user-experience over privacy. Collecting user-data has allowed Google to grow to one of the largest companies in the world. Where does Google draw the line between being a company serving its users and a government surveillance service?
It’s concerning that the government is openly collaborating with private companies to collect data about people’s behavior. If people believe they are browsing the web freely without being constantly tracked and monitored, they are being deceived by Google and other tech companies. Without a clear distinction between public and private entities, it’s more difficult to determine which rights people are entitled to when browsing the internet.
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