On Tuesday, Google issued a legal filing wherein it invoked the First Amendment’s free speech protection against the longstanding gag orders over the data requests in an effort to revamp its reputation in the aftermath of news about the National Security Agency’s Internet surveillance.
Google is seeking permission to publish information about the government data requests and how many user accounts are affected by the requests. While Google has made public information regarding other government data requests, it has been forced to refrain from sharing information on data requests that come from the surveillance court.
In the “Motion for Declaratory Judgment of Google Inc.’s First Amendment Right to Publish Aggregate Information about FISA Orders,” Google asserts, “Transparency is a core value at Google and the company is committed to informing its users and the public about requests it receives from government agencies around the world for the production of users’ information and/or communications.”
Google's motion requests that the company be allowed to disclose “limited, aggregate statistics” regarding its receipt of orders issued by the surveillance court without being in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
The motion states that Google will not publish statistics as to which FISA authorities were invoked in the data requests, but simply the total number of requests received, as well as the total number of users/accounts at issue, both of which would be reported as a range, rather than an actual number.
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