Feeds

Google charges feds $25 a head for user surveillance

Microsoft charges zilch

High performance access to file storage

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 wiretaps and pen registers. A wiretap grabs actual telephone or Internet conversations, whereas a pen register merely grabs numbers and addresses that show who's doing the communicating.

In 2010, the document shows, the DEA paid ISPs, telcos, and other communication providers $6.7 million for pen registers and $6.5 million for wiretaps. Pen register payments more than tripled over the past three years and nearly doubled over the past two. Wiretap payments stayed roughly the same.

The documents confirm that Microsoft does not charge for surveillance. "There are no current costs for information requested with subpoenas, search warrants, pen registers, or Title II collection [wiretaps] for Microsoft Corporation," they say. But they show that Google charges $25 and Yahoo! $29.

As Soghoain points out, Google and Yahoo! may make more money from surveillance than they get directly from their email users. Basic Google and Yahoo! email accounts are free. Department of Justice documents (PDF) show that telcos may charge as much as $2,000 for a pen register.

On the one hand, Microsoft could be commended for choosing not to make a single penny from government surveillance. But on the other, Soghoian says, the company should at least charge that penny, as that would create a paper trail. "You don't like companies to make money spying on their customers, they should charge something," Soghoian tells us. "You can't FOIA Microsoft's invoices, because they don't send any invoices."

Most wiretap orders in the US involve narcotics cases, so DEA spending likely accounts for a majority of wiretap spending. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Parent gabfest Mumsnet hit by SSL bug: My heart bleeds, grins hacker
Natter-board tells middle-class Britain to purée its passwords
Obama allows NSA to exploit 0-days: report
If the spooks say they need it, they get it
Web data BLEEDOUT: Users to feel the pain as Heartbleed bug revealed
Vendors and ISPs have work to do updating firmware - if it's possible to fix this
Samsung Galaxy S5 fingerprint scanner hacked in just 4 DAYS
Sammy's newbie cooked slower than iPhone, also costs more to build
Snowden-inspired crypto-email service Lavaboom launches
German service pays tribute to Lavabit
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Call of Duty 'fragged using OpenSSL's Heartbleed exploit'
So it begins ... or maybe not, says one analyst
NSA denies it knew about and USED Heartbleed encryption flaw for TWO YEARS
Agency forgets it exists to protect communications, not just spy on them
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.