Google Report Shows Growing Government Demands for User Data, Highlights Need for ECPA Reform
Reforming ECPA is an important step Congress can take to restore the checks and balances that are supposed to prevent government overreach into our private lives.
Today's Transparency Report from Google, which shows a sharp increase in government demands for user data, provides the latest in a long list of reasons why Congress should act now to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), to make it clear that government officials must obtain a warrant in order to access email and other communications stored online.
According to the report, law enforcement agencies in the US served over ten thousand demands on Google for customers’ data in the first half of 2013, an increase of nearly 30% over the previous six months and a 47% increase in the number of accounts affected. Since 2009, demands from US law enforcement agencies to Google have grown by over 200%, double the global rate.
"The latest transparency report from Google illustrates the government's steadily growing appetite for more data from more users," said Leslie Harris, CDT President & CEO. "As our most personal information continues to move online, where physical barriers to government access are diminished, it's vital that our laws are updated to protect against warrantless searches."
“After months of revelations about secretive government programs, there is deep public concern about eroding privacy,” continued Harris. “Reforming ECPA is an important step Congress can take to restore the checks and balances that are supposed to prevent government overreach into our private lives.”
ECPA, passed nearly three decades ago, says that government agencies can access email and documents stored in the cloud with only a subpoena, issued without a judge’s approval. A diverse coalition of tech companies and advocacy groups has been calling for a consistent warrant standard. Earlier this year, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bipartisan ECPA reform bill (S.607) sponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Mike Lee (R-UT), which would require a warrant for online communications. In the House, Representatives Kevin Yoder (R-KS) and Jared Polis (D-CO) have introduced a companion bill (H.R.1852) with over 140 cosponsors.
Yesterday, CDT and its allies launched a petition calling on the White House to support ECPA reform.