Google Publishes Another Batch Of National Security Letters, Updates Its Transparency Report

from the post-Snowden-landscape dept

Google has released what appears to be its entire collection of National Security Letters to date. Well, at least the entire collection approved for release by the DOJ, which still falls far short of the number received by the search giant.

Liam Tung of ZDNet points to a recent Transparency Report-related blog post by Google, which shows the company is still working to improve its dissemination of materials related to government demands for data and communications.

Since 2010, we’ve shared regular updates in our Transparency Report about the effects of government and corporate policies on users’ data and content. Our goal has always been to make this information as accessible as possible, and to continue expanding this report with new and relevant data.

Today, we’re announcing three updates to our Transparency Report. We’re expanding the National Security Letters (NSL) section, releasing new data on requests from governments to remove content from services like YouTube and Blogger, and making it easier for people to share select data and charts from the Transparency Report.

A new subsection of Google's Transparency Report contains NSLs it's been cleared to publish. This will presumably be updated as gag orders are lifted. Judging from what's published, it's still taking awhile to get gag orders removed. Most of what's contained in Google's NSL document dump was received by the company three to four years ago. Of course, much of this delay can be attributed to a lack of challenge options available to service providers -- something that has improved remarkably since the passage of the USA Freedom Act in 2015.

At this point, challenging gag orders is probably an automated process. If the government continues to hand these out thousands of times a year, it will be forced to review thousands of NSL gag orders within a month of their issuance. Sure, job security is a nice thing, but it seems the DOJ might be better off freeing up some of these resources by issuing NSLs without indefinite gag orders. If the notification ban were limited to 90-180 days on most requests, companies would be unlikely to immediately challenge gag orders, freeing the DOJ from spending time responding to each challenge.

In any event, more transparency is better, especially in Google's case, as it has had very little to say previously about the NSLs it receives.

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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Dec 2017 @ 8:23am

    "what appears to be" is not always true with Google.

    But we do know that it's for ginning up favorable publicity, as if the commercial front of NSA is actually valiantly opposing the surveillance state.

    In any event, WE have NO way to verify the number.

    AND Snowden said Google gives NSA "direct access", so this is just ongoing "limited hangout" to hide what They really don't want known.

    By the way, ever notice how Techdirt runs unnecessary and uninformative but favorable to Google pieces? Mere stenography, never a hint of skepticism.

    However, even the fanboys are weary of it! Up FIVE hours without comment.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Dec 2017 @ 10:49am

    Google: We care about your privacy by selling your digital life.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Dec 2017 @ 2:46pm

    Another knowingly meaningless move from a company that does many things for the federal government outside of whats written in their multi-million dollar contract with them but in furtherance of keeping said contract. Under the table favors for the feds galore... and then wonders why they have to spend so much time lying through their teeth and scrambling to cover it up, and for no reason because the public at large is well aware of their chicanery regardless.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ralph_the_bus_driver (profile), 12 Dec 2017 @ 7:27pm

    Is Google a perfect company? Of course not. They are however a benevolent company. That doesn't mean they are stupid and don't give a poop about America's security.

    Those that don't care about stopping terrorists at our borders can continue yelling "But, but, SNOWDEN said ..."*. As long as the NSA is doing the best job they can to monitor terrorist traffic at as little intrusion as possible on me and other innocents, then have at it.

    * For those that didn't pay attention, Snowden didn't know what he had on that flash drive that our enemies got a hold of. He is now living in the nation that interfered with our national election.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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