In recent years, Google and Facebook, two of the internet giants, have seen numerous privacy violations and a sharp drop in the company’s image, while U.S. law enforcement has legally collected massive amounts of user data from technology companies, prompting opposition from civil rights groups that have seen past surveillance violate privacy. Google reportedly began charging law enforcement and other government agencies this month in the face of a growing number of requests for user information, and only after receiving the fees will google data such as user email, location tracking information and search queries.
According to a notice sent to U.S. law enforcement officials, Google’s fees range from $45 per subpoena, $60 per wiretap and $245 per search warrant. The notice also includes a fee google charges for other legal requests.
A Google spokesman said the costs were partly to help cover the cost of complying with search warrants and subpoenas.
U.S. federal law allows companies to charge such government reimbursements, but Google’s decision is a major change in the way it handles user information requests from law enforcement agencies.
Some Silicon Valley companies have for years abandoned these fees, which are difficult to implement on a large scale and may give the bad impression that technology companies are reaping the financial benefits of collecting private data from law enforcement.
Some privacy experts, however, support such fees by technology companies as a constraint on excessive citizen surveillance by government agencies.
Google has billions of users of information, and law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and around the world often file legal requests for data from those users.
In the first half of 2019, the company received more than 75,000 data requests for nearly 165,000 user accounts worldwide, one-third of which came from U.S. government agencies.