Google wants permission to publish national security request data
Google published a letter this week on its Official Google Blog asking the federal government to allow it to publish statistics related to national security letter requests.
The letter was written by Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) Chief Legal Officer, David Drummond, and it requested that, and I quote, "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."
National Security Letters, for those of you who aren't familiar with them, are warrantless requests from the Department of Justice or FBI that compel companies to share data in the request and to keep those requests secret. Drummond is proposing they supply aggregated data, not specific requests, but as it stands, it's a violation of the law to even mention that you got one. So Google could be violating the law even making this request public.
The letter could be characterized as a bold move on the part of the Internet giant or publicity stunt in the wake of allegations it and other large Internet companies cooperated with the federal government in a massive domestic surveillance scheme called PRISM.
If the comments in the blog are any indication, most users are upset with Google, one even indicated that he has removed all his shared content from Google services and won't be sharing again. Can't say I blame him.
But you might not have the luxury of an individual user and as a company using Google services in the wake of last week's allegations, you have to be concerned about the level of surveillance going on by the U.S. Government and what impact that might have on your organization.
There is little doubt that this letter is intended to at least put your mind at rest to a minor degree. No matter how you view this politically and socially, from a business perspective, if someone in the government has access to all of your company's documents, that's not terribly secure.
I have no doubt that Google has its own reasons for releasing this letter at this particular moment in time, but I also believe that Google may want to take advantage of this opportunity when the information has been made public to make a case that it has certain requirements and obligations to its customers too.