Google pleads the First – wants removal of gagging order on data requests

19 Jun 2013

Citing the First Amendment, Google has petitioned the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court to allow it to publish aggregate numbers of national US security requests. In the fallout over the Edward Snowden/PRISM affair, the internet giant is fighting to maintain the most vital component in its relationship with users: trust.

In a post on Google+ last night, the company said: “We have long pushed for transparency so users can better understand the extent to which governments request their data – and Google was the first company to release numbers for National Security Letters (NSA).

“However, greater transparency is needed, so today we have petitioned the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to allow us to publish aggregate numbers of national security requests, including FISA disclosures, separately.

“Lumping national security requests together with criminal requests – as some companies have been permitted to do – would be a backward step for our users,” the internet giant said.

In leaks to newspapers by former CIA contractor Edward Snowden, Google was named with several other internet giants, including Facebook, Microsoft and Apple, as being monitored by the NSA for potential terrorist/criminal threats as part of a programme called PRISM.

While all the companies have denied knowledge of PRISM and have maintained that they never allowed law agencies direct access to their servers, some have taken to publishing the numbers of requests they have received for data by law-enforcement authorities.

Apple said on Monday it received between 4,000 and 5,000 requests from law-enforcement agencies, while Facebook and Microsoft revealed they had received 18,000 and 31,000 legal orders respectively from law-enforcement agencies performing investigations.

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years