Google Asks U.S. Government to Allow More Data Transparency

By Todd R. Weiss  |  Posted 2013-06-12 Print this article Print

Drummond's letter to the U.S. government aims to help clarify what Google and other companies are actually providing to the government when data requests come in.

"We have always made clear that we comply with valid legal requests," he wrote. "And last week, the Director of National Intelligence acknowledged that service providers have received Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requests."

Google has been compiling and releasing its so-called Transparency Reports since 2010 to keep the process transparent for users of its services so they can see what governments are asking for when they make data requests.

"Google appreciates that you authorized the recent disclosure of general numbers for national security letters," Drummond wrote. "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."

Facebook and Microsoft are making similar requests to disclose more information about the data requests they have been receiving from governments, according to a story in The New York Times.

"They made the request after revelations about the National Security Agency's secret Internet surveillance program, known as Prism, for collecting data from technology companies like e-mail messages, photos, stored documents, videos and online chats," the story reported. "The collection is legally authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which forbids companies from acknowledging the existence of requests or revealing any details about them."

Critics are loudly voicing objections and anger about the PRISM program as Congress is also posturing to take action about the disclosures, according to a June 11 report in The Guardian.

In January, Google's biannual Transparency Report disclosed that since 2009 it has seen a more than 70 percent increase in requests from governments worldwide for information about its users and their possible criminal activities.

For the six-month period ending Dec. 31, 2012, Google received 21,389 government requests for information about 33,634 users, including 8,438 requests involving 14,791 users by the United States government, according to Google.


Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel