The Department of Justice (DOJ) and Google agreed a groundbreaking settlement forcing the internet giant to employ an external compliance expert and restructure its legal compliance procedures.
The DOJ announced Tuesday that the agreement will assure Google's compliance with subpoenas and search warrants, as required by the Stored Communications Act (SCA).
The government approached Google in 2016 with a search warrant pertaining to a criminal investigation into BTC-e, a fraudulent cryptocurrency exchange. The DOJ was issued a warrant according to the SCA, but Google refused to send over all relevant conversations on the grounds that the law only applied to material kept in the United States.
Congress confirmed in 2018 that the statute applies to data held abroad by U.S. providers. When the DOJ requested the data from Google, the business claimed it was lost.
“The warrant underlying this agreement was sought in connection with a significant criminal investigation,” said U.S. Attorney Stephanie Hinds for the Northern District of California in a press release. “This agreement will help to ensure that, moving forward, Google will maintain the technical capability and resources necessary to comply with lawful warrants and orders, such as the one at issue in this case, that are critical to federal criminal investigations.”
Under the terms of the deal, Google must implement mechanisms to ensure prompt responses to legal demands and maintain a record of all missed deadlines, which the DOJ may review upon request. In the agreement, the corporation claimed that it has already spent more than $90 million to enhance its legal compliance programme.
Google must develop the means to obtain data swiftly in response to government requests. It must ensure that all new goods adhere to compliance standards.
Google must adequately staff its legal compliance department and allocate the required engineering resources in order to respond quickly to legal inquiries.
The outside compliance expert Google hires will monitor the company “fulfills its legal obligations” under the agreement, the DOJ said.
“This agreement demonstrates the department’s resolve in ensuring that technology companies, such as Google, provide prompt and complete responses to legal process to ensure public safety and bring offenders to justice,” stated Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite Jr. of the DOJ’s Criminal Division.
The compliance expert is responsible for evaluating the company's legal compliance policies and procedures and validating any claims Google makes regarding the authenticity of its legal compliance programme. The expert will also assist Google in compiling reports and providing updates to the DOJ regarding its efforts to improve its legal compliance programme. These reports will be distributed to both a Google compliance steering committee and the audit and compliance committee of Alphabet's board of directors.
The agreement specifies that Google may continue to maintain the confidentiality of user data, as permitted by law, and does not grant the DOJ access to Google user data.
Alphabet did not respond to a request for comment immediately.
By fLEXI tEAM