Google asks to make surveillance orders public, citing First Amendment

The company has asked the US surveillance court to rule that it has free speech rights to publish data about requests

Google has asked the court overseeing terrorism-related surveillance programs at the U.S. National Security Agency to allow the company to publish information on the number of surveillance requests it receives.

The Internet company, in a filing with the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on Tuesday, asked the court to allow it to publish the number of surveillance requests it gets from the NSA and other federal agencies and the number of users or accounts affected by those requests. The U.S. Department of Justice contends that publishing the information would be illegal.

Google's lawyers argued the company has the right, under free speech guarantees in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, to publish aggregate data about surveillance requests.

Google's request comes in the wake of allegations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that Google and eight other Internet companies have given the NSA direct access to their servers, allowing the spy agency to read email and other Internet communications.

Google and other Internet companies have denied the allegations, made public this month, with Google saying it provides information to the NSA and other agencies when required by law. NSA officials have also told lawmakers that they do not have direct access to Internet companies' servers.

"Google's reputation and business has been harmed by the false or misleading reports in the media, and Google's users are concerned by the allegations," Albert Gidari, a lawyer representing Google, wrote in the petition to the surveillance court. "These are matters of significant weight and importance, and transparency is critical to advancing public debate in a thoughtful and democratic manner."

Google has released information about national security letters, which are a way for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other agencies to get business records from companies, but Google wants more transparency about other surveillance requests, a spokeswoman said.

"We have long pushed for transparency so users can better understand the extent to which governments request their data," the Google spokeswoman said. While some companies have published national security surveillance request numbers lumped together with law enforcement requests related to criminal activity, that would be a "backward step" for Google's users, she added.

A DOJ spokesman didn't immediately respond to a request for a comment on Google's petition.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Latest Videos

Conversations over a cuppa with CMO: Microsoft's Pip Arthur

​In this latest episode of our conversations over a cuppa with CMO, we catch up with the delightful Pip Arthur, Microsoft Australia's chief marketing officer and communications director, to talk about thinking differently, delivering on B2B connection in the crisis, brand purpose and marketing transformation.

More Videos

Great content and well explained. Everything you need to know about Digital Design, this article has got you covered. You may also check ...

Ryota Miyagi

Why the art of human-centred design has become a vital CX tool

Read more

Interested in virtual events? If you are looking for an amazing virtual booth, this is definitely worth checking https://virtualbooth.ad...

Cecille Pabon

Report: Covid effect sees digital events on the rise long-term

Read more

Thank you so much for sharing such an informative article. It’s really impressive.Click Here & Create Status and share with family

Sanwataram

Predictions: 14 digital marketing predictions for 2021

Read more

Nice!https://www.live-radio-onli...

OmiljeniRadio RadioStanice Uzi

Google+ and Blogger cozy up with new comment system

Read more

Awesome and well written article. The examples and elements are good and valuable for all brand identity designs. Speaking of awesome, ch...

Ryota Miyagi

Why customer trust is more vital to brand survival than it's ever been

Read more

Blog Posts

A Brand for social justice

In 2020, brands did something they’d never done before: They spoke up about race.

Dipanjan Chatterjee and Xiaofeng Wang

VP and principal analyst and senior analyst, Forrester

Determining our Humanity

‘Business as unusual’ is a term my organisation has adopted to describe the professional aftermath of COVID-19 and the rest of the tragic events this year. Social distancing, perspex screens at counters and masks in all manner of situations have introduced us to a world we were never familiar with. But, as we keep being reminded, this is the new normal. This is the world we created. Yet we also have the opportunity to create something else.

Katja Forbes

Managing director of Designit, Australia and New Zealand

Should your business go back to the future?

In times of uncertainty, people gravitate towards the familiar. How can businesses capitalise on this to overcome the recessionary conditions brought on by COVID? Craig Flanders explains.

Craig Flanders

CEO, Spinach

Sign in