Google Reveals for the First Time How Often the FBI Requests Personal Info in the Name of National Security

Even though Google bi-annually releases a transparency report revealing how many requests are made by governments around the world for information of its users, until now the search engine giant hadn’t been able to report the number of the requests made in national security investigations.

Google in a blog post Tuesday announced that it would be including the number of National Security Letters, those issued by the FBI as part of national security investigations, it received each year in the government’s attempt to obtain personally identifying information about its users.

But, due to an agreement with the FBI, Google is only able to publish a range for the number of NSLs it received for a range of users/accounts. That range each year from 2009 through 2012 was 0-999 NSLs. NSL is the FBI jargon for National Security Letters.

So the government is snooping on you right now, you’ve been warned.

Ah the old days, when we were only concerned with the evil Bush and your library card checkout list.

Read the whole linked posting above. Hah, you think selecting the Privacy browsing will help you? Hah.

Wired’s David Kravets wrote for Threat Level the position by the government that only a range of numbers be published is “questionable” given that it’s required to publicly reveal the number of NSLs it issues annually anyway.

Salgado expounded upon Google’s role when it receives such a request in the blog post as well:

  • 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.
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