Requests for User Information FAQs

 Requests for User Information

How does Google handle government requests for user information? 

A variety of laws allow government agencies around the world to request the disclosure of user information for civil, administrative, criminal, and national security purposes. Google carefully reviews each request to make sure it satisfies applicable laws. If a request asks for too much information, we try to narrow it, and in some cases we object to producing any information at all. For more information, see our policies for how Google handles government requests for user information.

If Google receives a request for user information, will Google tell the account holder about it?

The laws governing when a provider, like Google, can notify the account holder vary by jurisdiction.  For more information, see our policies for notifying users in how Google handles government requests for user information.

When we notify the account holder about a legal request, we do so by email.  In these emails, Google will not ask for any personal information such as a password or social security number. If you get an email purportedly from Google that asks for this type of information, don't provide it. The email is probably a scam, so please report it to us.

Does Google give governments direct access to user information?

No, we require that requests for user information be sent to Google directly and not through any sort of "back door" direct access by the government.  Our legal team reviews each and every request, and we have taken the lead in being as transparent as possible about government requests for user information.  For more information, see our policies for how Google handles government requests for user information.

How can government agencies send legal requests to Google?

Google provides an online system that allows verified government agencies to securely submit requests for user information, view the status of submitted requests, and, ultimately, download Google’s response.

What if I want to give a government agency information from my Google Account?

You can use Google Takeout to create an archived file of your content from most Google services, and you can choose to share that content with whomever you like. Google, however, requires valid legal process before we’ll produce information in response to a request from a government agency (even if the request is being made on your behalf), absent an emergency situation.

What kinds of information do you disclose for different products?

To answer that, let's look at four services from which government agencies commonly request information: Gmail, YouTube, Google Voice, and Blogger. Here are examples of the types of information we may be compelled to disclose, depending on the cited legal authority, the scope of the request, and what is requested and available. If we believe a request is overly broad, we will seek to narrow it.
Products

Subscriber Information 

Non-Content Transactional Information

Content        Information

Gmail
  • Subscriber registration information (e.g., name, account creation information, associated email addresses, phone number)

  • Sign-in IP addresses and associated time stamps

Non-content information (such as non-content email header information)
  • Email content
YouTube
  • Subscriber registration information

  • Sign-in IP addresses and associated time stamps

  • Video upload IP address and associated time stamp
  • Copy of a private video and associated video information

  • Private message content

Google Voice
  • Subscriber registration information

  • Sign-up IP address and associated time stamp

  • Telephone connection records

  • Billing information

  • Forwarding number
  • Stored text message content

  • Stored voicemail content

Blogger
  • Blog registration page

  • Blog owner subscriber information

  • IP address and associated time stamp related to a specified blog post

  • IP address and associated time stamp related to a specified post comment

  • Private blog post and comment content

Transparency Report on Requests for User Information 

What is a government request for user information?

A government request for user information is when a government agency asks Google to disclose information about someone who uses Google services.  Most requests are issued in the context of criminal investigations, but government agencies may also request information in the context of civil or administrative cases. In this report, we are revealing statistics about those demands.

What is an emergency disclosure request?

Where a person may be in serious physical danger, a government agency may ask Google to voluntarily disclose information needed to prevent the emergency.  For more information, see our policies for how Google handles government requests for user information.

What is a preservation request and are preservation requests included in the total number of requests?

A government agency may ask Google to set aside a copy of specific information while the agency applies for legal process to compel the disclosure of that information. Preservation requests only apply to information that Google has at the time of the request, not information that may be generated in the future. 

We report the number of preservation requests received, but we do not include preservation requests in the total number of user data disclosures because we don’t disclose any user information in response to a preservation request. If a government agency does come back with a legal order to disclose preserved information, we account for those disclosures in the appropriate legal process category.

Is the data you show in your Transparency Report comprehensive?

Our goal is to present a comprehensive data set encompassing all demands we receive from government agencies for user information.  The Global report includes all categories of government requests from all countries, except for requests issued under US national security laws, which are detailed separately. We can't guarantee the data will always be error-free, but we're continuously working to improve our internal processes so our reports are timely and accurate.

Why do some of the older reporting periods have less data than newer reporting periods?

We keep looking for new ways to show more information and interesting insights, and early time periods may not include this new information. For example:

  • Starting with July–December 2010, we began to disclose the percentages of user information requests for which we produce at least some information

  • Starting with January–June 2011, we began to disclose the number of users or accounts about which information was requested

Is the number of "accounts" a comprehensive count of the total number of users implicated by government requests for user information?

The column for the number of “accounts” attempts to reflect the number of accounts that were subject to a government request for user information.  This number is not necessarily an aggregate count of unique users for several reasons. For example, the same Gmail account may be specified in several different requests for user information, perhaps once in a subpoena and then later in a search warrant. We add both instances to the "accounts" total even though it's the same account. Similarly, we might receive a request for an account that doesn't exist at all. In that case, we would still add both the request and the non-existent account to the totals. We may also receive a request that has multiple identifiers (for example, multiple YouTube video URLs) that resolve to the same user account.  We've taken efforts to reduce over-inclusiveness, but have decided it is better to err on the side of a greater number.

We also receive requests where the information disclosed does not include specific account identifiers, for example, a request where the resulting information was anonymized or aggregated.  In such cases, we would not count the anonymized or aggregated accounts in the total number.

How do you calculate the percent of requests where some information was produced?

Even if we objected to a request in part, if we produced any user information in response to a government request, that request gets reflected in this percentage.  If we didn’t produce any information at all, either because we objected to the request in full or because there was no responsive user information to produce, that request doesn’t get included in the percentage.

What is a mutual legal assistance treaty (MLAT)?

An MLAT is a treaty between two or more countries that defines how each will help in legal matters such as criminal investigations. Through an MLAT, the government of one country can ask the government of another country for assistance in getting information from companies in the other country.