What you need to know
- Google will now be charging law enforcement agencies for data requests.
- Prices range from as low as $45 all the way to $245.
- Google reserves the right to charge more if the case demands it.
Google will now charge law enforcement for surveillance data requests it fulfills, as per a new report from the New York Times.
The firm, routinely subject to requests for data and wiretaps, will no longer be working for free. Google will now charge fees ranging from $45 for a subpoena all the way up to $245 for a search warrant. An extra fee could also be tacked on if the situation demands it.
Google and other Silicon Valley firms have typically not charged for the fulfillment of law enforcement requests even though legislation has always allowed for that. It's likely that it'll be doing this to help recoup the costs of manpower and resources diverted towards fulfilling law enforcement requests.
A former Google lawyer quoted in the report, Al Gidari, explained:
None of the services were designed with exfiltrating data for law enforcement in mind.
The actual costs of doing wiretaps and responding to search warrants is high, and when you pass those costs on to the government, it deters from excessive surveillance.
In cases such as child safety investigation and life-threatening emergencies, Google states that it would not request reimbursement.
Some law enforcement agencies are concerned that Google charging for data could lead to other smaller companies doing the same, leading to small-town police departments having to budget for their data requests and prioritize cases based on importance.
For some departments, that's not a concern. Mark Bruley, a deputy police chief in Minnesota told the Times as much. "We are only using these warrants on major crimes, and their fees seem reasonable," he said. Privacy advocates would be unlikely to begrudge extra judiciousness either way.