Yesterday Google wrote on its official blog that it had sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI director Robert Mueller, asking the agencies to allow Google to release more information about the national security orders it had received to prove the information sharing had not been as wide-spread as reported.
The letter (shown below), written by Google’s chief legal office David Drummond asks for permission to publish FISA court requests as part of its biannual “transparency report” in which the company lists the number and kind of user data requests it receives from the government.
“Google’s numbers would clearly show that our compliance with these requests falls far short of the claims being made,” Drummond said in the letter.
Drummond stressed that the reports in the Guardian simply weren’t true — but legal restrictions were preventing him from offering further details. But he stressed that it was important to remember that Google serves hundreds of millions of users and that “only a tiny fraction of our users have ever been subject to having their data requested” through such orders.
Dear Attorney General Holder and Director Mueller
Google has worked tremendously hard over the past fifteen years to earn our users’ trust. For example, we offer encryption across our services; we have hired some of the best security engineers in the world; and we have consistently pushed back on overly broad government requests for our users’ data.
We have always made clear that we comply with valid legal requests. And last week, the Director of National Intelligence acknowledged that service providers have received Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requests.
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.
We will be making this letter public and await your response.
Chief Legal Officer