February 21, 2013 By Colin Wood
Whenever a new technology emerges that could help police officers or public safety workers do their job more effectively, it's almost inevitable that privacy concerns will arise. And Google, being at the forefront of Internet and technology privacy issues, stated on its blog that it will take a three-pronged approach to technology privacy -- one of which includes how the law currently views much of the content stored online. And this change could affect how officers of the law perform investigations.
Google will uphold its transparency policy and strict request for information process, but the company also stated it would advocate for updating laws such as the U.S. Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), “so the same protections that apply to your personal documents that you keep in your home also apply to your email and online documents.”
If implemented, this would likely require government investigators to obtain a search warrant when requesting access to old emails and messages stored online -- something the ECPA doesn't currently account for.
While there is a need for balance between the public's rights and the needs of police, said Michael Palladino, president of the NYPD Detectives Endowment Association, he also said he would oppose legislation that would make it more difficult for police officers to investigate crimes and protect innocent people.
“I think we should be exploring ways to protect our people more than exploring ways to prevent law enforcement from getting their job done,” he said.
Changes to existing legislation are likely, Palladino said, adding that technology has been a great boon to police, opening new avenues for investigation where previously leads would have dried up.