back to article Google charges feds $25 a head for user surveillance

Microsoft does not charge for government surveillance of its users, whereas Google charges $25 per user, according to a US Drug Enforcement Admission document turned up by security and privacy guru Christopher Soghoian. With a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, Soghoian has exposed four years of DEA spending on …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Anonymous Coward

    Thanks again, Mr. Bush

    The next time Eric Schmidt goes near the World Court, he should be picked up as a material witness. He'll just get bail from the Bahamas, but it will be more entertainment than Google has provided me in years.

  2. Simon 32

    Translations WTF

    They spend $60m/yr on translation!!!!

    At a generous (for translation) $40k/yr that is 1,500 full-time translators! Maybe they have to pay to access Google Translate as well? Or put it another way, that would be enough cash to language train about 8,000 staffers so they don't need translation.

    1. dogged

      Rarity value

      Pashtun is not widely spoken. This pushes up the price.

    2. Anonymous Coward


      "At a generous (for translation) $40k/yr that is 1,500 full-time translators!"

      "that would be enough cash to language train about 8,000 staffers "

      1st You numbers don't add up.

      Next speaking. Mexican Spanish is different to Spanish Spanish

      African French is different to French French.

      If you translate an true Spanish speaker using a Mexican Spanish speaker, then use that as evidence, it will torn apart in the courts. Case dimissed.

      Hell, saying "I gave my wife's fanny a quick pat before going out for a fag" will mean utterly different things in the US than the UK!

      1. DannyAston
        Thumb Up

        AC @ 12.01

        ""Hell, saying "I gave my wife's fanny a quick pat before going out for a fag" will mean utterly different things in the US than the UK!""


    3. Steve the Cynic


      $40k/yr might in general be generous for a translator, but I remember hearing (without solid confirmation, sadly) in the mid 1980s that the US State Department would pay people who could translate Russian a starting salary of $35k/yr. That's in 1985 dollars, mind you.

  3. Robin Szemeti

    How many?

    $6.7 million / $25 a head = 268000 people in the USA are wiretapped?

    geez ... land of the free?

    1. Anonymous Coward


      geez ... land of the free? Home of the knave.

      1. Andy Jones


        Actually, the Knave originated in the UK. and is basically a man servant.

        I think you meant naive (which is French by the way).

      2. Anonymous Coward

        there are knights in america? 2

        Naive even

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        there are knights in america?

    2. Fluffykins Silver badge

      Land of the free?

      Richest third world nation on the planet

    3. Is it me?

      Probably not all 'murkins

      I'd say there will be a few Mexicans, Columbian, Jamaicans, and just about any other nationality you can think of likely to be engaged in illegal activities impacting the US.

      So probably not that many really.

    4. Steven Knox

      268,000 people..

      is less than one tenth of one percent of the population.

  4. Olivreghw

    freedom of choice...

    Wonderful... Poor Yahoo was humiliated because they helped the Chinese gvt arrest some journalists, but at home yahoo and pals are just doing the same to help the US gvt catch pot smokers (or other drugs that obviously people WANT, and want more and more ).

    But well, it's business so it's probably ok. Next time the chinese ask for some info about some dissidents it should do it as a business transaction, maybe people won't notice so much.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Black Helicopters

      Smoking gun/pot

      How naive. It's not mainly pot smokers. I bet Michael Moore is under surveillance and many more political types as well.

      Anyway, if this is not the smoking gun for Google making money off selling our personal data then I don't know what is...

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why are the people being wiretapped?

    How come officials, banksters, and the monetary system terrorists have the authority to wiretap Americans, when the real crime and corruption is with the oath breaking officials, ponzi banksters, and the monetary system terrorists?

    I think the world is broken, My country sure is. I don't see us recovering anything until these oath breaking scum are stopped.

  6. kain preacher

    Data slurp

    So now we know the real reason for google slurping up the wi fi data.

  7. Stuart Duel

    Charge a disincentive fee

    Maybe Google, etc, should set their fee rate astronomically high as a disincentive against nosey Federal agents. To add insult to injury they could donate the fee to some worthy charity defending citizens against this sort of intrusive nonsense.

    "Want to do a wiretap on Mr AB Citizen? That'll be $1M. Please make the cheque payable to worthy charity X that want's to break your balls."

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Why Not just tell them for free?

      I mean when there's a real event, Just say it. No need for a fee.

      The problem I see is there's no real EVENTS, but plenty of dinner for 300k (old woodstock language)

  8. John Tserkezis

    It's all good.

    If you don't like that, come to Australia when the Internet Filter kicks in, and you, as a taxpayer, will be paying for your own surveillance.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Not surprising really

    Goggle are in the business of gathering data and not (generally) selling products, so of course they would charge for the info. It adds weight to the view that they have been pushing the bounds of legality all over the world on the expectation that even if they do get taken to task for their activities, they can do a deal with the local gov for access to the info gathered.

    So, it seems that not just G but also damned-near anyone else who is providing services to the masses are obligingly making users' data available to the govs. That being so, I tend to agree with 'Olivreghw' above - having a go at Yahoo over China is a bit rich.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Well said!

      Every time I jot down something anti-Google on "da tubes" I get people who have a pop at me, they cannot believe such a wonderful organisation, who go out of their way to give you free stuff and make your life easier, could ever do anything wrong, 'Do No Evil!' after all!

      Wake up! YOU are the product, the free stuff is just a sticky honey trap to get you to fork over more info about yourself, which Google mines and sells to the highest bidder!

      That Google stuff ain't free, it's paid for and the price is far higher than you could possibly imagine. At least use Scroogle if nothing else but don't patronise Google anymore, they have enough info on all of us to keep them busy for a few more years!

      1. ArmanX


        And don't use Bing or Yahoo, they're just as bad; and of course, email - don't use Gmail! Or Yahoo mail. Or Hotmail, AOL, or any of the other free accounts. No, you better run your own mail server. And you better stay away from Chrome - and IE, Firefox, Opera, etc., too. Yeah. Do what Stallman does - run a wget query for web pages. It's the only way you know you'll be safe!

        Note: I'm not protecting, defending, or otherwise trying to make Google look good. I'm just saying that "don't use Google" is a poor statement without a reference to a different solution. And honestly - I don't think many people care if Google knows what they search for, or sell their info to the government, or whatever. Google isn't going to use that data to blackmail anyone. I'd rather let Google know I'm searching for a wedding gift for my wife than pay for an email address - and something tells me most consumers agree with me.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Freedom = free-market monopolies

          @ArmanX, you complain that people shouldn't say, don't use this or that service - unless they offer an alternative - but then, later, you state alternatives - or, at least, one form of alternative - a paid service! - and then reject it.

          People were once taught that monopolies were, generally, bad things, but monopolists - having long ago paid off the politicians - and now in almost full control of the mass media - have convinced large swaths of the population that monopolies are good things.

          But even the monopolists don't like monopolies - unless, of course, it's their own. Bill Gates, for instance, talked about IBM's stranglehold on everyone in the early days of the computer industry, and how bad that was. But, today, we are not allowed to talk about the overwhelming negative effects of certain kinds of monopolies.

          It's NOT that there aren't alternatives, it's that you and others don't want alternatives. You're behaving like lemmings, albeit ones that have been told that if they keep running in the same direction, they'll eventually be driven off the edge of a cliff, but run on regardless.

          For $8 a year, I get adequate e-mail services from lavabit (dot) com, and I help keep the competition alive. Runbox (dot) com are a slightly more expensive Norwegian e-mail provider. For a good, free alternative to Yahoo!, Gmail and Hotmail, there's fastmail (dot) com - recently bought by Opera, unfortunately, so it's no longer independent. I use Mozilla Thunderbird as my e-mail reader, and that's free.

          The freebies these big monopolists offer are far from free: you must accept an ever-shrinking democracy (deflated not just by the trojan horse implicit in the use of giveaway software and services, but also by the increasing economic power being handed to the monopolists as they wring every drop of freedom out of our political systems) and less and less privacy, with no way to gauge how bad things will get in the future, if things continue this way.

          When the proverbial shit hits the fan, the masses will have no one to blame for their predicament except themselves, and their own greed and short-sightedness.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      re: Not surprising really

      "Goggle are in the business ... so of course they would charge for the info."

      While Microsoft's customers are paying for the feds to spy on them ...

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Says a lot

    This just tells me that Microsoft do not care about their users, that they are willing to hand over any information about them that the government may want, without question.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      RE: Says a lot

      Says absolutely nothing...

      I suspect there was nothing Microsoft could have done here that you would have liked. If they charege more than Google you would have said they were cashing in, it they were charging $10 you would have said they were handing over details too easily. If they refused to hand over any data you would say they were protecting criminals. Basically this was just another excuse to bash MS whatever they did.

      I'm also sure that non of these compaies are handing over the info without question, there will always be a court order of some sort.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Do Microsoft or die

        This attitude that anyone who criticises Microsoft is unfairly bashing the company is high school-style discourse.

        Bill Gates "bashed" IBM for its monopoly in the 1970s and early '80s, but I don't hear the "We would kill our mothers for Microsoft" brigade talking about that.

        Maybe you should read my post above because you seem to be another person brainwashed by monopolists into believe that monopolies are, generally, good for everyone.

        Monopolies aside, Microsoft started out writing compilers and interpreters - it had absolutely NO EXPERIENCE in operating system development. Bill Gates bought QDOS, which was effectively a clone of CP/M, written by Gary Kildall, a guy far smarter than Gates; QDOS even lifted some code directly from CP/M - it was written that Quickly and Dirtily! Gary Kildall did all the pioneering work into microcomputer OSes, including creating the BIOS, which all PCs use to this day. Google "Gary Kildall and Collegial Entrepreneurship" for a Dr Dobb's article about Kildall.

        Gates wanted an OS purely to MAKE MONEY - that's why Windows has been such a disappointment for so long.

  11. vic 4

    Should charge more!

    Might make the government only do this where it really is warranted

    1. CD001


      Charge too much and the Government will just pass a law making it illegal to charge for 'costs incurred whilst helping the authorities with their enquiries'.

      It's the government - you can't actually win - all you can do is vote them out and get a whole different set of ill thought out draconian legislation and bureaucracy from the next lot who'll eventually be more repressive than the previous lot ... who you'll then vote back in.

      With each successive government your liberties are slowly eroded in the name of safety. Two steps towards totalitarianism, one step back.

  12. JaitcH

    To the guys the Feds are blowing their wad on, use a different cafe/computer each time!

    No finesse with American security, they just trot down to the search engine offices whilst someone gets to publicise the fact.

    Any half-witted would be terrorist (excluding 'Shoes on Fire' Reid) would get the idea they should circulate not only between machines but also InterNet cafes to spice up the Fed's boring work routine.

    Better still, check out all the freebie WiFi's, that will /really/ grab them.

    The rest of us can help Google's profits soar by searching for IUD plans, shaped charges, cell phone timer circuits, Al Quaida training manual (not in the UK), how to 'cut' heroin, etc. so when/if Plod comes around to ask questions you can tell them you were testing them to see of they were spying on you.

    As for Microsoft, I am sure they're not doing without some quid pro quo from some branch of government.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The Eugenics Branch Of Government.

      <a href="">The Eugenics Branch Of Government.</a>

  13. Tigra 07 Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    No Tit Required

    Google should charge more to discourage them from spying on so many people, and Microsoft should start charging.

  14. Not Fred31

    should be commended"?

    "Microsoft could be commended for choosing not to make a single penny "

    No paper trail - the feds can ask for what they want, when they want, with the MS open door policy. Why on earth would this be commended?

    1. Steven Knox


      They should be commended for adhering to the principle that since the entirety of government funding comes from citizens, they are, in fact, charging themselves and their customers whenever they charge the government. Hence, overcharging is really only cheating themselves in the long run.

      However, as the article continues, they should at least make some charge, for two reasons: 1. to create a paper trail, and 2. to discourage less-than-serious requests.

      Personally, I think Google's charge seems to balance those concepts well.

  15. Chrissy
    Black Helicopters


    "Most wiretap orders in the US involve narcotics cases" & "DEA paid ISPs, telcos, and other communication providers $6.7 million for pen registers and $6.5 million for wiretaps"

    And that, people, is why you'll never see class B and C type drugs legalised - there is so much money to be made, and employment reliant on, enforcing drug laws worldwide that lobbyists will never allow a politician to deviate from the status quo.

  16. Tom 7 Silver badge

    MS charges zilch

    I should hope so - every other bugger gets MS users info for free why the hell should the government be charged for it!

  17. Ken 16 Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    automated self spamming?

    Is there any tool which automatically sets up Google accounts, generates data for them and then passes it around between them? Let the US government get their $25 worth and Google fill their databases and let their problem be separating the real traffic from the spam.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    The Microsoft tax

    Microsoft doesn't have to charge the guvmint. They collect tax directly every time I buy a computer. The wiretaps are provided at no extra charge. Bless their hearts.

  19. LoPath

    Yeah, but...

    The report was from 2006.

  20. JDX Gold badge


    >>Google should charge more to discourage them from spying on so many people

    Why? Because you think they're a nice friendly bunch of guys, who disagree with spying on people?

    >>That Google stuff ain't free, it's paid for and the price is far higher than you

    >>could possibly imagine. At least use Scroogle if nothing else but don't

    >>patronise Google anymore

    Tinfoil hats at the ready...

  21. Anonymous Coward

    like this is really anonymous

    One of the things that keeps the wiretapping costs down for the US Gov. is the little-know (outside of EFF and D.C. residents) law that allows any commmunication into or out of the greater Washington D.C. area to be recorded/monitored.

    The next time your connection from home to work seems a little slow, run a traceroute. You'll very likely see that your traffic, which should never leave town, has travelled all of the way to DC and back.

  22. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge
    Jobs Horns

    I don't commend Microsoft

    "On the one hand, Microsoft could be commended for choosing not to make a single penny from government surveillance"

    No they shouldn't. Surveillance is not a good thing, and if the company is required to provide it they should damn well charge for it.

  23. Mike007


    charge nothing - as pointed out no paper trail, as well as meaning the companies have to charge their innocent customers more to cover the costs (it should come from the tax money that we already agreed to pay for law enforcement)

    charge more than it costs - the more criminals on your network the more profit you make? those suggesting it would be an incentive to keep the number of requests down: since when has any department of any government ever been concerned about how much of other peoples money they are spending? the more they spend the bigger their budget and the more important they are

    companies should charge roughly what it costs to handle the requests, which is also reasonably fair on everyone

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020