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Google asks US for permission to reveal scale of data transfers

Google says it’s barred from revealing how many national security requests it follows, and wants to let people know.

A Google technician working on some of the computers in a data centre in Oregon.
A Google technician working on some of the computers in a data centre in Oregon.
Image: Connie Zhou/AP/

GOOGLE HAS ASKED the US government for permission to publish information about its compliance with secret national security data requests, saying it has “nothing to hide.”

The Internet giant released the text of its letter to the FBI and US Justice Department, requesting permission to release numbers related to its handing over of data for surveillance programmes disclosed in the past week.

The letter, signed by Google’s chief legal officer David Drummond, noted that the company’s “transparency report” on government requests does not include national security requests under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

“Assertions in the press that our compliance with these requests gives the US government unfettered access to our users’ data are simply untrue,” Drummond wrote.

“However, government non-disclosure 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.”

Drummond said Google would like to include “aggregate numbers of national security requests, including FISA disclosures” and said that the numbers “would clearly show that our compliance with these requests falls far short of the claims being made.

“Google has nothing to hide,” he added.

Google is among major Internet companies identified as participants in the PRISM programme, described as a vast surveillance operation aimed at finding foreigners who are threats to the government.

Other firms in the programme included Microsoft, Yahoo!, Facebook, Apple and AOL.

Read: This is the man responsible for one of the biggest leaks in US history

More: EU to raise concerns about US data surveillance in Dublin summit

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