Google and Yahoo Allow Gov Surveillance For a Price

Friday, November 19, 2010

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Google is famous for offering a slew of services at no cost to users, choosing instead to make money on the back-end from advertisers and marketing, while Yahoo is known for - well, being Yahoo.

But, when it comes to allowing the government access to data for law enforcement purposes, neither is ashamed to make a buck or two off US agencies.

Privacy advocate Christopher Soghoian did some snooping of his own through the Freedom of Information Act and found that Google charged the DEA $25 per case for access to user data.

Yahoo, in an ongoing to effort to best Google at something, charged the agency $29 per case.

In what can only be deemed the exception that makes the rule, Microsoft - the master of premium pricing for goods and services - was revealed to be charging nothing at all for access to user data.

If that strikes you as appalling, compared to the cost of doing investigations with telecom companies, the Internet is a bargain. Soghoian found that the cost of accessing telephone records is in the neighborhood of $2000 per individual.

To be fair, the report did not specify what the cost to the companies might be to access the information, so it is hard to tell who might be gouging the the government, or how much.

And the flip side to Microsoft's freebies, Soghoian points out, is that there is no information available on the number of records accessed by the DEA, as there are no invoices to examine.

Source:  http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/11/18/microsoft_does_not_charge_for_government_surveillance/

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