Google Asks Feds For Permission To Publish FISA Requests In Its Transparency Report

from the the-feds-should-say-yes dept

In the wake of the revelation of PRISM last week, Google admitted that it does not include FISA requests in its transparency report -- which has led some to question the value of the transparency report. Now, Google has sent a public letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI boss Robert Mueller, requesting permission to add FISA requests to its transparency report, suggesting that such transparency would be helpful in clearing up how frequently the government is asking Google for information.
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.
It would be somewhat ridiculous for the DOJ to refuse this request, but we're used to the DOJ doing stupid things these days.


Reader Comments (rss)

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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Jun 11th, 2013 @ 12:37pm

    Even better

    Ask to publish the *number of people affected* instead.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2013 @ 1:07pm

      Re: Even better

      Very insightful. It's clear that the feds are happy to say 'give us info on everyone' in a single letter.

       

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    out_of_the_blue, Jun 11th, 2013 @ 12:45pm

    Anything that can't be checked: DON'T TRUST.

    Have I mentioned in the last 5 minutes that Google is using this NSA "leak" to position itself as trusted, fighting back against the big bad gov't? How are we to know that Google is telling the truth?

    The only thing transparent about Google is its LIES. If you simply don't grant automatic belief, then you can't find ANY reason to believe this mega-corporation.

     

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      Arthur Treacher, Jun 11th, 2013 @ 12:52pm

      Re: Anything that can't be checked: DON'T TRUST.

      Hey, it's OOTB Personality #3, the Anti-Big-Search Troll, and possible MPAA/RIAA shill. Still upset about the SOPA massive loss? Why not go have a beer with Lamar Smith, he's probably still a little butthurt from that, too, so you guys could commiserate. Bring all your personalities, OOTB! Make it a party.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2013 @ 12:56pm

      Re: Anything that can't be checked: DON'T TRUST.

      I still have no idea how someone as paranoid as you can use the internet without imploding.

       

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      The Infamous Joe (profile), Jun 11th, 2013 @ 1:01pm

      Re: Anything that can't be checked: DON'T TRUST.

      I'm sure it's been said before, but if you have a problem with Google, don't use Google. I am well aware of the amount of information that Google has about me, (see: google.com/dashboard) and I am willing to give them that information in exchange for their services. This is a decision I have made.

      You really need to understand that Google is completely optional, and thus, not as scary as you seem to believe.

       

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        Mr. Applegate, Jun 12th, 2013 @ 3:42am

        Re: Re: Anything that can't be checked: DON'T TRUST.

        "You really need to understand that Google is completely optional, and thus, not as scary as you seem to believe."
        While I tend to agree with you, there is a problem with this logic. When the government can access that information, especially with little or no oversight that is a huge problem. In fact it is more scary than most realize!

        Sure today it is terrorists that they are after, but tomorrow it could be your church, your school, your club, your political beliefs, or you. They (the government) have repeatedly shown they aren't to be trusted. From the IRS targeting conservative non-profits to Congress bailing out the fat cats that caused the last fiscal crisis, or making laws that are obviously not in the best interest of the people (not corporations) they are supposed to serve. Perhaps insurance companies would like that information before they quote you health, auto, or home insurance.

        So the real issue is not that Google collects the data, it is that we know that data will be abused at some point. If not by Google, by our government, if not by our government by some other party. Knowledge = Power and Google has a lot of knowledge, so you can bet people will be wanting to leverage that knowledge for themselves so that they can wield power.

        In fact, some would argue it is already being abused. Some companies use all the meta-data they have on you to adjust pricing. For instance if they know your a 20-30 something guy really into sports that sports stuff will have a higher price tag than if your a woman who doesn't appear to be into sports. That purse will cost her more than it will cost you, unless your metadata says your a cross dresser.

         

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          The Infamous Joe (profile), Jun 12th, 2013 @ 4:11am

          Re: Re: Re: Anything that can't be checked: DON'T TRUST.

          There is no problem with my logic. If you don't trust Google with your data, don't give them your data. Again, using Google is optional.

           

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            Mr. Applegate, Jun 12th, 2013 @ 9:50am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Anything that can't be checked: DON'T TRUST.

            If you read what I posted you would realize I said it really isn't about trusting Google at this point.

            It makes 0 difference if I trust Google if the NSA or anyone else has tapped into Googles Systems (With or without their knowledge).

             

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2013 @ 12:52pm

    The US government and transparency is what the Sun is to a vampire, silver is to werewolfs, salt is to ghosts(allegedly), oil is to water.

    Is never ever going to happen unless it is done is tiny tine portions for a period of time no longer than a nanosecond.

    Joke attempt:

    1) The US government loves transparency, when it is pointed in the other direction.

    2) The US government is transparent as a robber wearing a ski mask


    What really saddens me is that there are people, well educated, intelligent people who truly believe they can get away with anything as long as they lie.

    This surveillance apparatus will eventually be abused, if it is not being already and there is zero accountability build into that system.

    Apparently the mentality inside the government is that, nobody but them can understand or comprehend the issues being put out, how can these people be responsible for governing a free democratic society when they don't believe that people are intelligent enough to make their own decisions?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2013 @ 12:54pm

    Milkin' it like there's no tomorrow!!!
    Milkin' it like there's no tomorrow!!!
    Milkin' it like there's no tomorrow!!!
    Milkin' it like there's no tomorrow!!!
    Milkin' it like there's no tomorrow!!!

    NO ONE WILL PUBLISH MORE WORDS ABOUT THIS AND MILK IT MORE THAN MIKE "MILK MAN" MASNICK.

    No one.

    And no one will be less willing to discuss anything on the merits than Mike. Hmm... Wonder what he's so ashamed of...

     

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    ahow628 (profile), Jun 11th, 2013 @ 12:59pm

    Why not?

    I understand Google's lawyers would wet their pants, but I guess I'm not sure why Google wouldn't say, "We are sick of the government making us look like jackwagons with all this spying crap, so here is all the info on spying requests!"

    Just stop asking for permission. If you think it is wrong, then push back!

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2013 @ 1:01pm

      Re: Why not?

      I think that would subject some people at Google to criminal, rather than just civil, action from the government. Seeing as how they could play it off as "threatening national security" and all that.

       

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        ahow628 (profile), Jun 11th, 2013 @ 3:34pm

        Re: Re: Why not?

        By that logic, Snowden should have just kept his face shut, but not too many are upset about what he did. Seems to me that people shouldn't be the only ones standing up against these atrocities. Corporations (Verizon, Google, and all the others) should have put a foot down. It seems they bent over rather quickly.

         

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    jupiterkansas (profile), Jun 11th, 2013 @ 12:59pm

    I just came here to see Bob and Blue cream themselves because Google was mentioned on TechDirt again.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2013 @ 1:34pm

    In the wake of the revelation of PRISM last week, Google admitted that it does not include FISA requests in its transparency report -- which has led some to question the value of the transparency report.

    Led some? This only reinforces what duplicitous liars they are. Which, unless you are in complete and total denial has been obvious for some time.

     

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    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2013 @ 1:40pm

    Don't Forget the Phone Metadata

    Lest anyone forget, it's not about just Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, etc., it is about the conjunction of identifiable information BETWEEN these companies data and the telephone metadata that makes connections. The phones give who, when, and a couple of wheres, and of course how long. Google, Microsoft, et al give, web visits, Skype calls, email contacts, etc, but not content. Content is not needed at this stage, making the connections is.

    Thanks to CapitalistLionTamer via the Insider Chat window comes this very interesting analysis of how this might work.

    http://kieranhealy.org/blog/archives/2013/06/09/using-metadata-to-find-paul-revere/

    Once these connections are made, then they can go after the content.

    Now only if it worked and they actually caught some of the folks they should be looking for, instead of truly awful 'examples' and folks who call them out for incompetence.

    Can they name any actual successes?

     

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    Anonymous aka NSA already knows, Jun 11th, 2013 @ 2:48pm

    "We disclose user data to government in accordance with the law, and we review all such requests carefully. From time to time, people allege that we have created a government 'back door' into our systems, but Google does not have a back door for the government to access private user data."

    I think it is clear enough that Google rushed putting out the statement about not being aware of direct access from NSA. That is the kind that does not require a court order for search and seizure.
    Now, they will be trying to do damage control by putting out some "numbers"
    Give president a few days to analyze the situation come up with public address "excuse" only THEN Google will get their package of numbers to report.

     

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    Dr. Evil, Jun 11th, 2013 @ 3:37pm

    Transparency

    "Google has nothing to hide"
    excellent barb Google, keep up the good work!
    If nothing else, I would indicate in the report that FISA and other requests have been received and acted upon, just without numbers until allowed.

    sweet sweet Google. :-P

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2013 @ 11:44pm

    Well, google, there is never a second chance to make a good first impression. Your transparency report is useless, if you hide some data - who's going to trust it ever again? You had plenty of opportunity to contest it, after all it has been going on for years. You chose not to. Rather to rub elbows with NSA, FBI or any other TLA. I am sure new users will swarm.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2013 @ 4:36am

    if given permission, will the reasons also be included as to why the requests were made in the first place? i would imagine that in the main, the requests are pointless and unhelpful to anyone and are done just because they can

     

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