Is the govt. snooping through your email?

(CBS News) This week, Google released its latest transparency report, revealing that the search engine giant received more than 42,000 requests -- a record high -- for user data from law enforcement worldwide last year.

The new figures also show from July to December 2012, Google received 8,438 requests for information for 14,791 users of accounts in the U.S. Requests were up 34 percent year over year in the U.S. and 85 percent since 2010.

CBS News' John Miller, a former FBI assistant director, said Friday that the report "tells us that computer and electronic communications are more and more involved in the commission of crime and ... law enforcement is getting more adept at figuring out how to use these things."

"There's a lot of press out there ... headlines all say 'government, warrantless snooping of your email is up.' These are very charged terms," Miller added. 

He broke down the data in Google's release, saying "The big numbers [in the report] are in subpoenas, the smaller numbers are in court orders and other things. Subpoenas, that is them saying, 'who does this email account belong to?'" Miller explained, referring to 68 percent of government requests for data, which are specifically for subpoenas.

Turning to government requests for court orders, which account for 10 percent of U.S. government requests for access to email accounts, Miller said, "When you talk about court orders, it's 'now you've determined we want to go to a judge and say we want to read some of these emails."

So, "If you want content, what's being said in those emails, you pretty much have to go to a judge and get a court order," Miller said.

Miller also added that the alarmist idea that an FBI agent would attempt to access a private email account on an unwarranted basis is unrealistic, saying, "If you've ever talked to an FBI agent about their case load ... the idea that they have time to go snooping through people's email over curiosity is absurd."

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