Photo: AP Photo/Connie Zhou
Google released a transparency report Tuesday, revealing that they’ve received a number of so-called National Security Letters — official government requests for data under the Patriot Act, passed after the September 11, 2001 attacks.Under the Patriot Act, if Google or others receive an NSL, they must disclose information as long as authorities deem the request “relevant to an authorised investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities.”
The letters allow the U.S. government to garner detailed information of Americans’ communications or finances without judicial oversight, according to Wired. Despite the data release, Google did not give exact figures of requests, instead opting to give a range.
“You’ll notice that we’re reporting numerical ranges rather than exact numbers. This is to address concerns raised by the FBI, Justice Department and other agencies that releasing exact numbers might reveal information about investigations. We plan to update these figures annually,” Richard Salgado, a legal director for Google, wrote in a blog post.
In the years from 2009 to 2012, for example, it received between zero and 999 requests. User data requests have gone up 122 per cent during that period.
The lack of oversight into the letters worries some, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, as well as the Justice Department.
David Krevets of Wired writes:
In 2007 a Justice Department Inspector General audit found that the FBI had indeed abused its authority and misused NSLs on many occasions. After 9/11, for example, the FBI paid multimillion-dollar contracts to AT&T and Verizon requiring the companies to station employees inside the FBI and to give these employees access to the telecom databases so they could immediately service FBI requests for telephone records. The IG found that the employees let FBI agents illegally look at customer records without paperwork and even wrote NSLs for the FBI.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.