Google to Charge Government Agencies for User Data Access as Requests Hit Record High


MapsTech companies hold enormous volumes of data. The data is used for various money-making projects (through user consent, although you may not know what you are consenting to). However, the data is not available to many other organizations such as government agencies. It is at this point that law enforcement agencies come in play when they are trying to solve a crime, say a murder, and believe that the suspects may have used technical means to execute their criminal acts. The agencies then task the corporations to reveal that information, although it is not as straightforward as it sounds.

According to a report published by the New York Times, Google has already started levying fees for law enforcement agencies that want to get access to to that information. The charges vary from the form of access needed: a subpoena costs $45, a wiretap goes for $60, whereas a search warrant costs $245.

Google says it has been receiving substantial requests from law enforcement agencies to pass over data about users. The process of packaging the details, according to Google, is a tedious and costly exercise so the fees will help offset the compilation. Google is, by the way, allowed by law to put a price on the exercise, but tech companies have not been charging agencies before.

There are two points from this development: some may say that Google is unfairly making money from an exercise that should make the world safer. On the other hand, the fees will control how the police perform searches because they may have taken advantage of the free service. The last point has also been echoed by privacy advocates.

Google, which reviews the data before passing it over says it received 160,000 user data requests in 2019 alone.

It is also worth noting that other tech companies such as Facebook receive such requests, including asks from the Kenyan government.

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Kenn Abuya is a friend of technology, with bias in enterprise and mobile tech. Share your thoughts, tips and hate mail at [email protected]