When Your Government Request for Your Data

When Your Government Request for Your Data

Recently, Google published the details on government requests upon their data through http://www.google.com/transparencyreport/userdatarequests/. It can be seen that the requests from government keep increasing each year and it is not only U.S government who asked for the data but also the other countries.

The question is, is it overloaded surveillance when the government demands data from these internet companies? I believe that the answers for most people would be yes. However, as we all know, in some countries, it is managed by law that the government has full right to monitor their citizens’ activities, including the information that goes and comes to/from the society.

Fortunately, most company stands on customer side – of course without disregarding the law condition –  by protecting customers’ data and privacy.

Yahoo, for example, got a request of their data by the U.S government since 2007 and refused to give it on the first place. Yahoo’s general counsel, Rob Bell, who wrote the blog post, says the government first approached the company in 2007 after it amended a law to grant itself the power to demand user data from online services. Yahoo made a legal challenge to those requests but was shot down initially and then failed again on appeal. The secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) then ordered the company to comply with the government’s requests and all the hearing notes and records from the proceedings were classified until 2013 when only the judgment was made public. At the moment, the courts have unsealed documents relating to Yahoo.

Apple, on the other hand, promised that they will inform customer if the government request for any users’ data. Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet told the Washington Post that later in May, Apple would update its policies so that in most cases when law enforcement requests personal information about a customer, Apple would notify that customer. So, at least, the users know in advance (although it is more likely that users will not be able to do anything, anyway).

The other big company, Google, announced that they are stepping up efforts to toughen data encryption in an effort to limit unofficial snooping on user information in the wake of the revelations about the government. It is said that this encryption will be an end-to-end encryption and safe enough to protect users’ data.

Knowing this condition, if we are really aware about privacy, it might be wise that we, personally, also monitor our online behavior and attitude. Privacy and security has become the hot topic in its relation with internet usage since years ago. Self-disclosure is believed to help gain social capital but also it has the dark side: by the time we exposed our personal data, there is always a chance of our data is shared to other parties.

Company has to comply with law. Indeed, they may need to share the whole data information they have to the government when being asked.

Is the government being too overtly surveillance over their citizen? Maybe; and as citizen, the only thing we can do is being aware of the condition and try to protect our personal data as best as possible.