Google has quietly announced to the US authorities that their requests for information about its users will now be billed. A fee schedule in effect since January 13, 2020 provides fees starting at $ 45 for the injunction of a court (subpoena) for information and up to $ 245 for a full search term from any of the Google accounts.
Until then, these services were completely free, but as the article in New york times who discloses the information, US federal laws provide that companies can request payment in exchange for information. It is normally a case of reimbursing the costs of the request, and a Google spokesperson explained that that was the goal here, noting that it was only partial financial assistance.
Clearly, the search giant should not make a profit on these requests, but simply reduce its costs. It must be said that the number of requests for information from the authorities has exploded, for Google as for others. In the first six months of 2019, the company received more than 75,000 requests from around the world. This is 50% more than in 2018 and a third of these requests came from the United States.
Google has planned a few cases where the operation will remain free, especially for emergencies where a life is threatened, and for all files related to the safety of children. The authorities are not necessarily against this new policy, if it can help reduce the number of requests and at the same time decrease Google response times. The requests being free until then, they were sometimes made without real reason, almost in principle.
This pricing could help reduce these systematic requests, and force justice and government agencies to motivate their requests more. The New york times specifies that Google is not the only one to charge for data requests, Verizon also does this systematically. Microsoft and Twitter declined to give the information, but Facebook said it did not charge the authorities. The newspaper does not mention Apple at all.
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