Google rallies troops to restrict government access to cloud-based data

The tech giant is throwing its weight behind measures that would restrict governmental access to digital communication.

google lobby privacy cloud technology email communication

Google is trying to rally groups and firms into a lobbying effort to spur on measures that would limit how much access governmental bodies would have to cloud-based communication.

According to Bloomberg, access to emails and documents is requested monthly by U.S. authorities; Google alone receiving up to 1,400 requests a month.

When issued a governmental request under subpoenas or court orders, the firm will release information including IP addresses and registration details -- but not the actual content of emails, video or texts.

The California-based company has reportedly been talking to both advocacy groups and other firms about a new lobbying effort against the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which is now potentially outdated due to the expansion of cloud-based technology -- and does not protect information in the same way as physical documents when it comes down to search warrants.

"Given the realities of how people live and where things are going in the digital world, it's an important time for government to act to update the law," David Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer, told the publication. "It's a bipartisan issue and I think the momentum is going to build because citizens are expecting this."

Data stored remotely on cloud-based servers allows for certain emails and content to be accessed without court backing, according to Google officials. Over two-thirds of 8,438 requests Google received last year for this kind of data were made without a search warrant.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, one of the original creators of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, says the legislation is now outdated due to modern technology, and plans to introduce updates to the act this year. However, Konrad Motyka, president of the FBI Agents Association believes that this could hamper investigations and make the job of the FBI more difficult.

According to IDC, spending on cloud services is likely to reach $100 billion globally by 2016.

Google spends vast amounts on political lobbying every year, having spent $16.5 million on lobbying last year. In July 2012, the tech giant joined firms including Amazon, eBay and Facebook to start the "Internet Association," which is meant to serve as a unified voice for tech firms to relay their stance on both political and regulatory issues in the United States.

Google is also part of "Digital Due Process," formed in 2010 and based on privacy law. Other members include Facebook, Microsoft and the American Civil Liberties Union, the group are currently seeking changes in online privacy regulation.

In addition, Google launched a campaign against German government proposals which would force search engines to pay a fee when they bring up news excerpts in web results.