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Google sent a letter to the U.S. Attorney General and FBI today asking for permission to include secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act orders in its transparency reports — something it could not do before because of the gag-order that often comes attached to these information requests.
Google, still reacting to news that recently broke out about a national data surveillance program called PRISM, made the request while reinforcing it’s earlier message that it has never given it has never given the U.S. government “unfettered access to our users’ data.” It went on to say that keeping these FISA orders secret is leading people to believe that Google participates in this kind of data sharing. Google’s transparency report lists all the different data and take-down requests it receives from governments around the world. FISA requests, however, are obviously missing.
If granted, Google would publish the number of FISA requests it receives and how many accounts the requests affect. It’s an effort to show that each request is limited and specified and that there is no firehose of data about all of its users leaving the company such as was required in a recently revealed secret court order sent to Verizon.
“Google has nothing to hide,” said David Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer, in the letter. “Transparency here will likewise serve the public interest without harming national security.”
Drummond explained that no problems have resulted from the government’s previous approval of Google adding the quantity of received National Security Letters to the transparency report. Thus, adding FISA orders would likely not have much impact on their effectiveness either.
Google sign image via Devindra Hardawar/VentureBeat