Google sent user data to Hong Kong officials in the latter half of 2020 after it promised to stop processing data requests from foreign governments, the Hong Kong Free Press first reported.
Hong Kong officials sent Google 43 requests for user information last year, according to the company's transparency report. Google produced data responding to three of the requests.
One request involved information disclosure due to a credible threat to someone's life. The other two requests involved an investigation into human trafficking and were supported by a warrant signed by a government magistrate. According to the company's Terms of Service, which applies globally, Google is allowed to provide information in such cases.
Last July, China unilaterally passed sweeping but vague national security laws for individuals and corporations in Hong Kong that banned all forms of what China deems "secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion" with outside powers.
The law dealt a huge blow to Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement and sparked citywide protests from residents and pro-democracy activists who saw it as a clear violation of their civil liberties. China also established a formal presence of mainland national security agencies in Hong Kong for the first time in the city's history as part of the law.
Google said some foreign governments might ask it for data, either through the courts or diplomatic channels, like a mutual legal assistance treaty (MLAT), which allows two or more countries to exchange information during criminal investigations. The tech giant says it reviews all requests and pushes back on those that could infringe on user privacy.
The three case exceptions fell outside the MLAT protocol, but Google said those requests were processed according to the company's global standards and procedures.