|Google reveals thousands of FBI surveillance requests for information
Google says the FBI is monitoring the Web for potential terrorist activity. But it can not confirm the extent of the surveillance.
As part of the Google Transparency Report, the company released data this week on so-called National Security Letters – official requests for data under the Patriot Act passed after the September 11, 2001 attacks, AFP reports.
But Google said it was only allowed to provide broad ranges of numbers: in the years from 2009 to 2012, for example, it received 0-999 requests.
The requests affected between 1,000 and 1,999 accounts, except in 2010, when the range was 2,000 to 2,999 accounts, AFP reports.
“You'll notice that we're reporting numerical ranges rather than exact numbers,'' said a blog post from Google law enforcement and information security director Richard Salgado. “This is to address concerns raised by the FBI, Justice Department and other agencies that releasing exact numbers might reveal information about investigations.''
He thanked government officials for collaborating with Google in providing “greater insight'' into the use of National Security Letters.
The numbers, while inexact, were believed to be the first data from a private company about the requests, criticized by civil liberties groups for giving the government too much power to conduct surveillance without a warrant.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation calls the letters “dangerous’’ and has challenged the authority, along with the American Civil Liberties Union.