Google to share government requests for GCP, G Suite data

The expansion of Google's semi-annual transparency report comes as governments forge data-sharing agreements under the US CLOUD Act.

Early next year, Google will begin publishing the number of government requests it receives for Google Cloud Platform (GCP) and G Suite enterprise customer data, Google said in a blog post Thursday. The data will be shared in Google's semi-annual transparency report, which Google began publishing in 2010 in response to broad government requests for user information. 

"The publication of this information is an important milestone in our efforts to improve transparency and help address broader uncertainty about how often governments are coming to Google to request access to enterprise customer data," Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian wrote in Thursday's blog post. 

The expansion of the transparency report comes as governments are forging data-sharing agreements under the US Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act (the CLOUD Act). Earlier this month, the US and the UK shared the text of their bilateral agreement to give law enforcement officials more direct access to cross-border data when investigating serious crimes. This is the first agreement under the CLOUD Act, which Congress can review before it goes into effect. Meanwhile, the US and Australia have begn formal negotiations over their own bilateral agreement. 

In light of these agreements, Kurian stressed Google's commitment to customer control over data and visibility. In addition to announcing the expansion of its transparency, Google also laid out a set of new principles to guide its government advocacy efforts. Kurian also shared Google's partially-unsealed court challenge against two gag orders that blocked Google from speaking about the US Government's request to access enterprise customers' data. 

"Together, these efforts reflect our core belief that customers should have no less control over data stored with a cloud provider than they would if the data were stored in their own data centers," Kurian wrote in his blog post. 

The new principles Google is adopting for government advocacy "will help drive greater transparency surrounding customer control and government requests to disclose enterprise customer data," Kurian wrote. "These principles also provide a consistent and lasting framework that will help both enterprises and governments develop predictable and normalized approaches to digital data."

The five principles are: 

  1. Governments should request customer content directly from enterprises. 
  2. Promote transparency: Enterprise customers should have a right to know when governments seek disclosure of their information and the public should understand how often governments are making these requests.
  3. Governments should follow legal process and provide clear paths for enterprises or providers to challenge requests for data. 
  4. Google will support legal and technological ways to protect customer security and privacy. 
  5. Google will support streamlined government rules that respect international norms and sovereignty.   

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