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Google asks DOJ if it can release details on government data requests

Jaikumar Vijayan | June 12, 2013
The lack of information on FISA orders is fueling speculation, misperceptions Internet search giant says.

FISA basically is a statute that gives broad authority for U.S. agencies to conduct surveillance -- including electronic wiretapping -- of people inside the U.S and overseas who are believed to pose a security risk to the country. A specially established, non-public court called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court handles all government requests for search warrants under FISA. The court prohibits companies that receive its requests from disclosing any information about the requests.

Drummond noted that because of the NDA requirements, the company has been unable to talk about how many FISA requests it receives and the number of user accounts they cover.

"We therefore ask you to help make it possible for Google to publish in our Transparency Report aggregate numbers of national security requests, including FISA disclosures -- in terms of both the number we receive and their scope," Drummond said. "Google's numbers would clearly show that our compliance with these requests falls far short of the claims being made. Google has nothing to hide."

This is not the first time that Google has pushed the government on this issue. The company's quarterly Transparency Report already provides a detailed breakdown of all the user data requests it gets from U.S. law enforcement agencies in connection with various criminal investigations. The company has also begun publishing some broad details of the number of National Security Letters it gets for user data from the FBI.

"Google has worked tremendously hard over the past fifteen years to earn our users' trust," Drummond said. "We have consistently pushed back on overly broad government requests for our users' data."


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