Google just revealed for the first time how many ‘National Security Letters’ (NSLs) they are getting from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. These NSL requests are now part of Google’s Transparency Report, which is publicly available online.
In late January of this year, Google fulfilled their promise on how the company would be open with their customers and Internet users in regards to any national government request for user data. David Drummond, who serves as Google’s Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer wrote on Google’s official blog just how the search giant was committed to a user’s privacy.
Drummond also noted that Google had an extremely strict policy on protecting user data and have petitioned to update the laws pertaining to the U.S. Electronic Communications and Privacy Act as well.
Google publicly posted which countries were making those formal requests on user data, but more importantly Google was a bit concerned about it all since requests for user data had gone up over 70% during the past three years.
Now Google has gone a step further to show us how many official NSL requests they are getting from the FBI. Richard Salgado who serves as the Legal Director, Law Enforcement and Information Security for Google, wrote on their official blog site with a blog post titled “Transparency Report: Shedding More Light on National Security Letters”.
An NSL is an official request to obtain identifying information about a subscriber from telephone or any Internet company. He further said that Google had been trying to find ways in which to provide more information about NSL requests to the public without violating laws and particularly since there was an increase in government spying since 9/11.
On March 5, 2013, Salgado writes,
Starting today, we’re now including data about NSLs in our Transparency Report. We’re thankful to U.S. government officials for working with us to provide greater insight into the use of NSLs. Visit our page on user data requests in the U.S. and you’ll see, in broad strokes, how many NSLs for user data Google receives, as well as the number of accounts in question. In addition, you can now find answers to some common questions we get asked about NSLs on our Transparency Report FAQ.
In the past Google's Transparency Report supplied user with a fair amount of data in regards to what companies and governments were looking into, now they are literally showing us specific FBI requests, and it is a bit unnerving to some. This recent revelation from Google marks the first time an Internet company, or rather, any company in history that has disclosed data in regards to NSL requests.
Now that Google has published the FBI's NSLs to their list, it still doesn’t explicitly list whom the FBI is investigating.
In July of 2012, the still current NSA director, General Keith Alexander, was accused of lying to a crowd gathered at the Def Con hacker conference by saying that the NSA did not spy, nor store or collect personal data American citizens.
In December of 2012, a former NSA cryptologist by the name of William Binney told Russia Today that the FBI had some access to the data collected by the NSA, which consisted of E-mails of people inside U.S. “All the congressional members are on the surveillance too,” Binney said to RT. “No one is excluded. They are all included. So, yes, this can happen to anyone…”
Binney further added that not only was the U.S. government expanding its role in spying on its citizens, but that they were building servers to store all E-mail communications to be recalled at any time in the future for whatever need they may have with it.