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June 19, 2013

Google challenges US surveillance court’s gag order

Google was denied permission to reveal the number of requests it receives under the FISA.

By CBR Staff Writer

Search engine company Google on Tuesday asked the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on Tuesday to ease the gag order over, citing the US 1st Amendment that gives it the right to talk under free speech protections.

Permission is being sought by the company to allow it to say more about its own involvement in the US government’s surveillance efforts as it has always given precedence to transparency.

It is an effort by the company to allow users to understand what the scope of the data is that the government generally requests as part of its surveillance efforts.

Google, in its court filing, said: "Google’s reputation and business has been harmed by the false and misleading reports in the media, and Google’s users are concerned by the allegations.

"Google must respond with more than generalities. Moreover, these matters of significant weight and importance, and transparency is critical to advancing public debate in a thoughtful and democratic manner."

Last week, other companies, such as Microsoft, Facebook and Apple, revealed limited information about the number of surveillance requests received by them as per an agreement they reached with the US government.

This agreement allowed the companies only to release aggregate data requests made by government agencies only for a six-month period. It did not allow them to show the difference between surveillance and criminal requests.

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Earlier, on June 11, Google was denied permission by the US Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation to reveal the number of requests it receives under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

At that time, Google’s chief legal officer, David Drummond, requested in a letter: ”to help make it possible for Google to publish in our Transparency Report aggregate numbers of national security requests, including FISA disclosures in terms of both the number we receive and their scope.”

Google is trying clear its name after media raised speculations that the government has been given unregulated access to the search engine’s users, following its compliance of requests from the US government.

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