Google: Government requests for user data need reforms to curb unwanted gag orders: Google

Google called for reforms in the practice of governments requesting users’ personal information and then issuing non-disclosure orders to citizens.

“As our lives continue to become increasingly digitized, laws governing government access to personal information must evolve to protect both public safety and civil liberties.” — Kent Walker, President of Global Affairs, Google and Alphabetsaid.

Governments around the world are seeking orders to prevent providers like Google from telling users about data requests.

These so-called non-disclosure orders (NDOs) or “non-disclosure orders” have become commonplace.

“We have seen NDOs issued in cases where the user was already aware of the investigation and even of the legitimate request itself. Similarly, we have seen NDOs issued for legal requests for data from well-established reputable organizations, even if notifying the organization is unlikely to cause harm,” Walker said.

The company also faced some NDOs that may have been initially justified and continued for years after the investigation was completed, and in some cases indefinitely.

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“The time has come to reform this practice, which requires more scrutiny before non-disclosure orders are issued,” the report says.

The US Stored Communications Act sets out rules governing government requirements for providers to disclose information about their users.

One of these rules allows the government to seek executive orders to prevent providers like Google from informing users of requests for data.

“We applaud the passage of the NDO Fairness Act by the bipartisan House of Representatives, a bill sponsored by Chairman (Jerrold) Nadler and Representative (Scott) Fitzgerald that will bring much-needed improvements to the Stored Communications Act,” Walker said.

The reform ensures that non-disclosure orders are issued only when necessary and for reasonable periods, he added.

Google said it has long supported surveillance reform, including the Email Privacy Act and legislation to allow providers to be more open about national security requests.

“Transparency in government data requirements is an important element of checks and balances, and we encourage the House and Senate to advance this practical protection of Americans in the digital age,” the tech giant said.

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