With 425 million Gmail subscribers, Google claims to be the largest email provider in the world. They also provide telephone service through Google Voice, document storage through Google Drive, personal blogs through Blogger and they provide You Tube services.
Did you know that Google saves and archives every form of communication that used any of their services? That even includes any corporate clients.
If that doesn’t make you nervous, then this will. Google reports that they had 13,753 requests from local, state and federal government agencies to access and read your communications? The request involved 31,072 users. If you’re still not too concerned, then wait, it gets better.
Did you know that there is a federal law that allows government agencies, local, state and federal, to gain access to Google’s archives without a warrant or establishing probable cause?
Have you ever heard of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) of 1986? It’s actually a combination of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and the Stored Wire Electronic Communications Act. Passed by a Republican controlled Senate and Democratic controlled House, the Act was signed into law by Republican President Ronald Reagan.
Basically, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) of 1986 states that all email that has been opened and stored remotely and not on the hard drive of a computer, may be accessed without warrant.
Now to confuse you as to what they can and can’t get access to:
“If the government wants to read the content of an email accessed through Gmail, hear a voicemail message sent over Google’s telephone service Google Voice, or read other private content, it must still obtain a search warrant under federal law.”
“However, information not sent in the body of an email or recorded in a voice message can be obtained by a simple subpoena – which does not require a government agency to show probable cause. Such information includes the name of an e-mail account holder, the IP address used when signing into and out of Gmail including dates and times, and other information you gave to Google when you created Gmail or other Google account.”
“Other types of information require a court order from a judge, such as the IP address of a particular email, email addresses of those you correspond with, and the web sites a person has visited.”
A search warrant is required to read the content of an email stored on Google’s servers, as well access as internet search histories, YouTube videos, photos, and other documents.”
Now that you are thoroughly confused as to what can be accessed by which legal means, let me share this with you: of the 13,753 requests from local, state and federal governments in 2012, Google says that most of them were granted, even though a large number did not have search warrants.
Therefore, be warned that if you use any of Google’s services and you don’t want the government knowing what you are saying or doing, then find another means of communication. However, that other means is probably in the same boat Google is, so best to talk face-to-face or not all if you are concerned about anyone else knowing.