Google seeks to disclose FISA requests separately, invokes first amendment rights as part of argument

Google seeks to separate out FISA request numbers in its Transparency Report.

Published Tue, Jun 18 2013 5:01 PM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 12:22 PM CST

Google is one of the first companies to release transparency reports that disclose the number of requests for personal data they receive from various governments. Unfortunately for Google, FISA and NSL requests often come with gag orders to prevent them from disclosing the fact they even received a request.

Google seeks to disclose FISA requests separately, invokes first amendment rights as part of argument |

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. 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.

Google has filed a motion to gain permission to specifically separate the number of FISA requests they receive from general criminal requests in their transparency reports. Facebook, Apple, and Yahoo have all started publishing national security orders in their respective transparency reports.

In the motion, Google cites its first amendment rights, the value it places on transparency, and the need to defend itself from claims that it gave access to user data to the NSA. It will be interesting to see if FISA numbers start being broken out in future transparency reports.

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Trace is a starving college student studying Computer Science. He has a love of the English language and an addiction for new technology and speculation. When he's not writing, studying, or going to class, he can be found on the soccer pitch, both playing and coaching, or on the mountain snowboarding.

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