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13,753 Gov’t Requests for Google E-Mail Data in 2012, Most Without a Warrant

by Matt Cover, CNSNews.com  |  published on February 23, 2013

American government agencies – state, local, and federal — made a record 13,753 requests to read emails or gather other information sent through Google’s Gmail and other services in 2012, more than half without warrants, according to statistics released by Google.

The total number of users about whom government agencies wanted information also set a record at 31,072, up from 23,300 in 2011, the first year Google began reporting the data. The discrepancy comes because government agencies request information on multiple users or accounts at the same time.

Most of these 13,753 requests, 6,542 of 8,438 in the latter half of 2012 alone, were done without a search warrant, Google data show. Google did not make available any detailed data prior to June 2012, nor did it make available which requests came from the federal government and which came from state or local law enforcement agencies, when asked by CNSNews.com.

Google spokesman Chris Gaither said the company only started tracking which type of legal authority – subpoena, court order, or search warrant – was used in the latter half of 2012. Google issues biannual reports on the requests for user data it receives from government agencies from around the world, including ones in the U.S.

Google announced in June 2012 that it had 425 million active Gmail subscribers, making it the largest e-mail provider in the world. It also provides users the ability to store documents via its Google Drive service, phone service via Google Voice, YouTube, personal blogs via Blogger, as well as email hosting services for corporate clients through Gmail.

Google keep records of all email and other communication sent through its e-mail, telephone, YouTube, and other services, storing the information on cloud servers – a move that allows government agencies, local, state, and federal, to access some information without a warrant.

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