Google to US Congress: Update our privacy laws

Google has sent a direct request to the US Congress, asking it to update its privacy laws. This has been seen by many as an attempt by the search giant to distance itself from allegations of complicity in the scandal of the American National Security Agency (NSA) and its sprawling programmes of bulk spying.

Google has since joined forces with some of the world's biggest technology firms, such as Apple, Microsoft and Facebook, and won the right to disclose more information about just how many data requests it receives from the US government. It has also proposed several reforms of existing legislation.

Susan Molinari, Google's vice president of public policy, wrote in a blog post: "The revelations about government surveillance practices – both in the US and globally – over the past eight months have sparked a serious and overdue debate about the nature and scope of existing laws and programmes."

Molinari argued that the coming USA Freedom Act would help to "codify many of these principles," adding that Google supports the new act and urges Congress to enact it into law.

She also urged the US Congress to update to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), for government entities to require a warrant before they can compel online companies to disclose the content of users' communications.

"Legislation introduced by senators Leahy and Lee in the Senate and representatives Yoder, Graves and Polis in the House would achieve that goal," she said.

"More than 100 companies, trade associations, and consumer groups - and more than 100,000 Americans - have signed on to support this important update to ECPA, which no longer reflects users' reasonable expectations of privacy," she said.

Google yesterday took part in "The Day We Fight Back", a series of events and awareness campaigns highlighting the need for reform of surveillance agencies around the world.