Hats off to Google for requesting permission to publicly disclose number of secret FISA requests

// June 11th, 2013 // Politics and legal


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After recent accusations that the NSA has direct access to tech giants’ servers, hats off to Google who today asked US authorities to allow it to fully disclose the number of secret requests it receives to hand over user data. Google sent the letter to US attorney Eric Holder and posted a copy of the letter on Google’s blog while reiterating that the government did not have unfettered access to their servers (for those that are still unclear, PRISM most likely runs at points just outside the companies’ network perimeter, potentially with no involvement from the company being monitored).

Here is the letter that Google sent to the offices of the Attorney General:

Dear Attorney General Holder and Director Mueller

Google has worked tremendously hard over the past fifteen years to earn our users’ trust. For example, we offer encryption across our services; we have hired some of the best security engineers in the world; and we have consistently pushed back on overly broad government requests for our users’ data.

We have always made clear that we comply with valid legal requests. And last week, the Director of National Intelligence acknowledged that service providers have received Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requests.

Assertions in the press that our compliance with these requests gives the U.S. government unfettered access to our users’ data are simply untrue. However, government nondisclosure obligations regarding the number of FISA national security requests that Google receives, as well as the number of accounts covered by those requests, fuel that speculation.

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. 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.

Google appreciates that you authorized the recent disclosure of general numbers for national security letters. There have been no adverse consequences arising from their publication, and in fact more companies are receiving your approval to do so as a result of Google’s initiative. Transparency here will likewise serve the public interest without harming national security.

We will be making this letter public and await your response.

David Drummond

Chief Legal Officer

Sources: Google
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