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Google challenges PRISM gag orders

Petitions the US FISA court
Wed Jun 19 2013, 10:52
Google logo (Robert Scoble Flickr)

INTERNET SEARCH AND ADVERTISING FIRM Google has challenged the secretiveness that forces it to be less than open with the public about data surveillance conducted by the US National Security Agency (NSA).

PRISM is the system that George Orwell warned us about in his book 1984, and which the NSA reportedly uses to cast a wide net over internet communications.

Google has tried to be open about data surveillance requests from the NSA and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and other law enforcement agencies, and it regularly produces a Transparency Report.

However, since PRISM was revealed, Google has claimed to be mostly in the dark about it. Google CEO Larry Page said that Google had "not joined any program that would give the US government - or any other government - direct access to our servers".

He added that Google had not been aware of PRISM until the press started reporting the allegations. He said, "The US government does not have direct access or a 'back door' to the information stored in our data centers."

In a Google+ post the firm said that it will continue to be as open as possible, and that because of this it has petitioned the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

"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," it said.

"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."

The "some companies" are the others that have followed Google's lead and produced their own figures on data surveillance requests, including Yahoo and Facebook. µ


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