Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Google Formally Petitions to Publish Statistics on FISA Requests

Google today formally petitioned the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to publish more specific statistics about national security requests for user information.

prism_slideThe company said it hasn’t been able to accurately defend itself from news reports that the feds have “direct access” to its systems and that they are “tapping directly into” Google’s central servers through an initiative called PRISM.

“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. Google must respond to such claims with more than generalities,” said the filing, which asked for a motion for declaratory judgment to publish aggregate information.

Google started separating national security letters and criminal requests in its annual transparency report for the first time this year. What it wants to do now is publish the total number of FISA requests it receives and the total number of user accounts associated with those requests. It said it’s entitled to do so under the First Amendment.

Internet companies — unlike phone companies — have been racing to out-disclose each other after a string of recent U.S. intelligence leaks. Google actually went so far as to diss Facebook’s efforts to publish FISA request statistics, saying they were a concession because they did not separate criminal and security information requests.

Here’s Google’s statement today:

“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.”

And here’s the filing:

Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court – Motion for Declaratory Judgment

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work