Google invokes first amendment rights as it requests permission to disclose FISA order figures

Google invokes first amendment rights as it requests permission to disclose FISA order figures

Google has filed a petition with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court citing its first amendment rights as it asks for permission to disclose controversial Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requests.

The company revealed in a Google+ post that it is seeking to separate out federal criminal requests from those related to national security:

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. 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—as some companies have been permitted to do—would be a backward step for our users.

The Washington Post obtained a copy of Google’s motion, which referred to the first amendment, which protects freedom of speech, and the high value that the company places on transparency.

According to the Post, Google is specifically asking to reveal the number of national security requests it receives and how many user accounts are affected.

Last week, Google sent an open letter with a similar request addressed to the US Attorney General and the head of the FBI. The company  cited a need to defend itself from inaccurate claims that suggest it is giving the government “unfettered access” to its data.

Facebook announced last week that it would begin publishing national security orders in its transparency reports. Apple and Yahoo have followed suit as well.

The National Security Agency has come under scrutiny this month after a series of reports revealed a massive surveillance apparatus that was believed to have the cooperation of the technology industry’s biggest players. President Obama has spoken out in defense of the NSA programs, noting that citizens aren’t getting the “complete story”. The FBI has pointed out that the data collection programs helped the agency thwart bomb plots against the New York Stock Exchange and the New York subway system.

Photo credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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