With anger and controversy over the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance program hitting a fever pitch, Google has asked for permission to release to the public details about the requests for information that it has gotten from the government. The company had been asked to do this before, reports TIME, but now they’re only too happy to oblige.
“…Google has a self-serving reason to do so as well: the tech giant wants to prove that it doesn’t give the government ‘unfettered access’ to the vast trove of data it collects from its users,” the magazine says. Google is prohibited from disclosing those Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requests about the PRISM surveillance program because they’re classified top secret. The company doesn’t want to publish the requests themselves, but simply clarify the number of requests and the scope of data the government was looking for in each case in order to go into more detail than normally available in the Transparency Report. The request was made directly with Attorney General Eric Holder and the FBI Director Robert Mueller.
Both Microsoft and Facebook have followed suit. All of them expressed an interest in showing the public what was going on in the spirit of openness. They also want to keep issues with privacy advocates to a minimum. Tech companies have been under fire for a while from users concerned that digital platforms are collecting information about the public and using it in ways that violate people’s privacy. In this case, surely, they want the onus for any privacy issues to be squarely with the government.
The Department of Justice issued a statement saying, “The department has received the letter from the chief legal officer at Google. We are in the process of reviewing their request.”
“Google’s numbers would clearly show that our compliance with these requests falls far short of the claims being made,” the tech giant said on its blog.
“A serious misperception has been created in the wake of the disclosures around the Verizon national security order, around phone records as well as the disclosures about the so-called PRISM program,” added Google’s chief legal officer David Drummond in an interview with Fox News.
According to Fox, members of the Senate would also like to see a more public airing of the details because of misinformation that’s spreading. We”re sure everyone would like to hear a little more.