Google challenges secret court over gag order
Citing the first amendment, Google files a legal motion to publish the number of FISA data requests it has received.
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Google has already published the number of National Security Letters that it receives as part of its 2013 Transparency Report with the permission of the FBI, according to the company’s FISC motion. But FISA requests allow a different scope of surveillance, explains Ms. Bambauer. Under FISA, “the government doesn’t have to prove that the person under surveillance has done anything wrong," she says, "just that they are associated” with a foreign power group – a broadly defined term that includes individuals viewed as national security threats to the United States.Skip to next paragraph
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“I think there is some information that can likely be made public without jeopardizing” information that needs to remain classified for security reasons, Bambauer says.
Google’s court motion requests permission to publish both “the total number of FISA requests it receives, if any,” and “the total number of users or accounts encompassed within such requests.”
“Google must respond to such claims with more than generalities,” the motion reads. “Transparency is a core value at Google and the company is committed to informing its users and the public about requests it receives from government agencies around the world for the production of users’ information and/or communications.”
The court motion accuses the Guardian newspaper of mischaracterizing Google’s compliance with foreign intelligence surveillance requests, saying that the story “falsely alleged” that Google gave the government “unfettered access to the records and communications of millions of its users.” Google also characterized the Washington Post’s account of the Internet company’s role in the PRISM program as “misleading.”
The two articles relied heavily on leaked NSA documents and testimony from Edward Snowden, a former-NSA employee.
Besides hurting consumer faith in a company that has built its empire on being transparent, keeping a gag on Google and the other eight companies would set a harmful precedent by removing transparency in the broader discussion of data accumulation, Bambauer says.