Google Asks U.S. Government For Permission To Publish Aggregate Number Of National Security Requests It Receives

Google is one of the companies implicated in the PRISM leak last week, but the company continues to deny that it provided the NSA with special access to its servers. It is, however, now asking the U.S. government to be allowed to publish at least a little bit more information about the national security requests, including  FISA disclosures, it receives. Google isn’t currently allowed to publish even this aggregate data in its transparency reports.

Google is under nondisclosure obligations here, so the details of these requests will likely always be under wraps, but according to a letter by its Chief Legal Officer David Drummond sent to the FBI and the Attorney General, the company would like to make public at least the number of requests it receives.

Update: Microsoft just emailed us the following statement. The company also asks the government to permit greater transparency around these requests.

“Permitting greater transparency on the aggregate volume and scope of national security requests, including FISA orders, would help the community understand and debate these important issues.  Our recent Report went as far as we legally could and the government should take action to allow companies to provide additional transparency.”

This is meant to push back against the assertion that Google provides the government with direct access to its servers – something the leaked PRISM slides and statements from the reporters who have seen the whole presentation seem to indicate. The company argues that “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.”

“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,” Drummond writes.

Drummond also uses this opportunity to once again note that the assertion that Google gives the U.S. government “unfettered access” to its server are “simply untrue.”