Feeds

Google mounts legal challenge to surveillance gag orders

Argues free speech trumps security secrecy

High performance access to file storage

Google has filed a legal petition "respectfully requesting" the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) release it from a gag order, and allow the company to tell users how often the NSA comes calling for data.

"We have long pushed for transparency so users can better understand the extent to which governments request their data – and Google was the first company to release numbers for National Security Letters," the company told El Reg in a statement.

"However, greater transparency is needed, so today we have petitioned the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to allow us to publish aggregate numbers of national security requests, including FISA disclosures, separately. Lumping national security requests together with criminal requests would be a backward step for Google and our users."

Google has led the way among tech firms on the topic, becoming the first to issue regular transparency reports that show which countries' governments are asking it for details of users' online habits and what information takedown requests come in. Twitter and Microsoft have since started their own reports and others, like Apple, are under pressure to do likewise.

In the court papers, Google says that it is able to publish such data for requests from the FBI and US Department of Justice, but that it can't do the same for FISC orders. In light of media reports on the PRISM case, this stance is hurting the company's reputation among users, it says, and is causing the company financial harm because Google is limited to only commenting on "generalities."

Google wants to publish the number of FISC orders it gets in a year (within a given range such as from 0-99), and also to detail how many of its users are included in such data-trawling expeditions. Such data should be covered by Google's first-amendment rights as a corporation, it argues in the petition.

Facebook and Microsoft have also called for more freedom to disclose when they are forced to hand over users' information. Apple and Yahoo! have also asked to be freed from the gag orders, but Google is the first firm to issue a formal legal petition, albeit a limited one.

How much attention the court will take of Google's petition remains to be seen, but it's a canny PR move by the Chocolate Factory. Google staffers tell El Reg that the current situation is causing real concern among management that the company may be losing the goodwill of its users; goodwill that the firm's founders are keen not to dissipate. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Android engineer: We DIDN'T copy Apple OR follow Samsung's orders
Veep testifies for Samsung during Apple patent trial
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Big Content goes after Kim Dotcom
Six studios sling sueballs at dead download destination
Alphadex fires back at British Gas with overcharging allegation
Brit colo outfit says it paid for 347KVA, has been charged for 1940KVA
Jack the RIPA: Blighty cops ignore law, retain innocents' comms data
Prime minister: Nothing to see here, go about your business
Singapore decides 'three strikes' laws are too intrusive
When even a prurient island nation thinks an idea is dodgy it has problems
Banks slap Olympus with £160 MEEELLION lawsuit
Scandal hit camera maker just can't shake off its past
France bans managers from contacting workers outside business hours
«Email? Mais non ... il est plus tard que six heures du soir!»
Reprieve for Weev: Court disowns AT&T hacker's conviction
Appeals court strikes down landmark sentence
US taxman blows Win XP deadline, must now spend millions on custom support
Gov't IT likened to 'a Model T with a lot of things on top of it'
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.