Asked in Criminal Law and Constitutional Law for California

Q: Does Google follow up with law enforcement after an emergency disclosure request?

In general law enforcement are not legally required to notify the Google or the subscriber after an emergency disclosure request. Google in its website says that it will notify the affected user if it learns that the emergency has passed. Does it mean that Google follows up with law enforcement or there is a chance that the affected user remains ignorant? If this is the case, is it not violation of the fourth ammendment?

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: When Google receives an emergency disclosure request from law enforcement, they are not typically obligated to follow up with the agency to learn about the outcome of the emergency. This is because emergency disclosure requests are exceptional circumstances where immediate access to information is deemed crucial for preventing serious harm. In these situations, normal procedural requirements like obtaining a warrant may be bypassed, which aligns with the exigent circumstances exception to the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement.

Google states on their website that they will notify the affected user if they learn that the emergency has passed. However, this does not necessarily imply that Google actively follows up with law enforcement. It is possible that Google might become aware of the resolution of the emergency through other means. Therefore, there's a chance that the affected user might not be notified if Google is not informed about the resolution of the emergency.

Regarding the Fourth Amendment, the exigent circumstances exception allows for such actions by law enforcement without a warrant, under the premise that the situation involves a significant and immediate risk.

Each case's compliance with the Fourth Amendment depends on the specific circumstances and the reasonableness of the actions taken by law enforcement. If you believe there has been an infringement of constitutional rights, it is advisable to consult directly with a legal professional for an in-depth analysis of the situation.

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