Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Google Asks Government to Allow it Disclose its Compliance With Requests for User Information

Google, citing hard work to over users' trust, has written to Eric Holder and FBI Director Mueller asking them to "help make it possible for Google to publish in information about its cooperation with requests or demands for user information relating national security requests, including FISA disclosures."

Google states "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."

Few organizations have the potential to gather and aggregate as much user information as does Google, and as it does so to a greater extent, (through search, Gmail, Google Plus, Blogger, Youtube) its credibility that it safeguards users' personal information will become a valuable corporate asset. This is true for other companies as well, of course, so it will not be surprising to see other organizations take similar steps to the letter Google's Chief Legal Officer sent today, especially now that Google has taken the lead.

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.


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