Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Transparency Report: Shedding more light on National Security Letters

(Cross-posted from the Official Google Blog)

Our users trust Google with a lot of very important data, whether it’s emails, photos, documents, posts or videos. We work exceptionally hard to keep that information safe—hiring some of the best security experts in the world, investing millions of dollars in technology and baking security protections such as 2-step verification into our products.

Of course, people don’t always use our services for good, and it’s important that law enforcement be able to investigate illegal activity. This may involve requests for personal information. When we receive these requests, we:

  • scrutinize them carefully to ensure they satisfy the law and our policies; 
  • seek to narrow requests that are overly broad; 
  • notify users when appropriate so they can contact the entity requesting the information or consult a lawyer; 
  • and require that government agencies use a search warrant if they’re seeking search query information or private content, like Gmail and documents, stored in a Google Account.  

When conducting national security investigations, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation can issue a National Security Letter (NSL) to obtain identifying information about a subscriber from telephone and Internet companies. The FBI has the authority to prohibit companies from talking about these requests. But we’ve been trying to find a way to provide more information about the NSLs we get—particularly as people have voiced concerns about the increase in their use since 9/11.

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.

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.


Thomas Tenkely said...


owen660 said...

2 step verification may be fine, but that application specific pw needs some revisions.

anyway, just saw this post after seeing how china is saying that google is too controlling of android. had to lol on that one.

AAREN said...

Excellent! thanks for share good information.

android application development

www.yoklik.com said...

Nowadays, it's very important to get notice about this issue.

Nicolas E. Gonzalez said...

Great Work, keep the info flowing.

Chris Robichaud said...

Thank you for sharing this information, sunlight is the best disinfectant

Unknown said...

Has Google considered creating a system to automatically create FOIA requests for all NSLs requesting case status weekly starting 6 months after receipt? By law, if action was not taken, the FBI should purge any information received by these NSLs if the case is not active for more than 6 months and there was no action taken. I occurs to me that one way to limit this behavior is for them to understand the punishment they are going to receive paper-work wise on the flip side. We would also learn how many of these were abusive fishing expeditions and how many were really related to solid investigative work.

ians said...

I'm interested to know how many persecutions resulted.