Google pushes back with a public letter to AG

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We’re calling for greater transparency–asking the government to let us publish in our Transparency Report aggregate numbers of national security requests, including their scope. Here’s our letter to the US government.

This morning we sent the following letter to the offices of the Attorney General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Read the full text below. -Ed.

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.

Google appreciates that you authorized the recent disclosure of general numbers for national security letters. There have been no adverse consequences arising from their publication, and in fact more companies are receiving your approval to do so as a result of Google’s initiative. Transparency here will likewise serve the public interest without harming national security.

We will be making this letter public and await your response.

David Drummond
Chief Legal Officer

2 thoughts on “Google pushes back with a public letter to AG

  1. Twice during my career I had a secret security clearance which permitted me access to secret material that I needed to do my job. The clearance was not forced upon me and I was investigated to determine whether I was qualified to have it.

    The government apparently is making it illegal for Google and other companies to reveal that they have been ordered to provide information to the government. How can the government do that? Google and other companies never agreed to keep any information secret, yet the government is ordering them to do so. There is something seriously wrong here; perhaps others can expand upon it.

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