Google asks to publish more US gov't information (Update)

Jun 11, 2013
This undated photo made available by Google shows colorful pipes sending and receiving water for cooling Google's data center in The Dalles, Ore. The blue pipes supply cold water and the red pipes return the warm water back to be cooled. (AP Photo/Google, Connie Zhou)

Google is asking the Obama administration for permission to disclose more details about the U.S. government's demands for email and other personal information transmitted online in an effort to distance itself from an Internet dragnet.

In a show of unity, Google rivals Microsoft Corp. and Facebook Inc. also supported the attempt to pressure the U.S. Justice Department to loosen the legal muzzle that limits disclosures about government surveillance authorized by courts to protect national security.

Google made its plea in a Tuesday letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI Director Robert Mueller. Google is trying to debunk media reports that the company has created a way for the National Security Agency to gain access to large amounts of its users' online communications as part of a secret program code-named "PRISM."

The reports surfaced last week after a government contractor leaked confidential documents revealing the NSA has been tapping into the computers of Google Inc. and many other Internet services to retrieve information about foreigners living outside the U.S. The other companies linked to PRISM are: Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo Inc., Apple Inc., AOL Inc., Paltalk, Google's YouTube and Microsoft's Skype.

All the companies and services have denied giving the U.S. government unfettered access to user data. The companies say they only turn over user data under legally binding orders, and try to regularly resist orders considered to be too broad.

Minimizing the appearance of their involvement in PRISM is important to the technology companies. The companies don't want Web surfers to become paranoid about sharing personal information on their services or, worse yet, avoiding their websites altogether. Attracting big audiences helps the companies sell more advertising. Those ads command higher prices and run more frequently when the companies are able to decipher personal data and determine which parts of the audience are most likely to be interested in certain products.

The stakes are particularly high for Google, which sold $44 billion in digital advertising last year alone.

James Clapper, the director of national intelligence for the Obama administration, last week confirmed PRISM had been approved by a judge and is being conducted in accordance with U.S. law. He hasn't listed the companies cooperating. Those identifications came from the PRISM documents leaked to The Washington Post and The Guardian, a British newspaper.

Even while acknowledging PRISM's existence, Clapper has insisted the scope of its surveillance has been more limited than depicted in published reports.

Google also portrayed itself as an unwitting participant in the program. Executives at the Mountain View, Calif., company maintain that they didn't know about PRISM until reading about it for the first time last week. Google insists it hasn't been handing over user data on a broad scale, something the company believes it can prove if it receives clearance to disclose the number of requests that have been submitted under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA.

Federal law currently prohibits recipients of FISA requests from revealing information about them.

"Google's numbers would clearly show that our compliance with these requests falls far short of the claims being made," David Drummond, Google's chief legal officer, wrote to Holder and Mueller. "Google has nothing to hide."

In its own statement, Microsoft said it also wants to be more forthcoming if the Justice Department would allow it.

"Permitting greater transparency on the aggregate volume and scope of national security requests, including FISA orders, would help the community understand and debate these important issues," the Redmond, Wash. company said.

Ted Ullyot, Facebook's general counsel, said the social networking leader wants to provide "a complete picture of the government requests we receive, and how we respond."

Explore further: Google chief calls Internet spying threat to freedoms

5 /5 (6 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Google, Facebook condemn online spying

Jun 08, 2013

Google chief Larry Page and Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg condemned online spying Friday and called for governments to be more revealing about snooping on the Internet.

US intelligence chief backs Internet spy program

Jun 09, 2013

The top U.S. intelligence official stressed Saturday that a previously undisclosed program for tapping into Internet usage is authorized by Congress, falls under strict supervision of a secret court and cannot ...

New reports allege vast US Internet spying sweep

Jun 07, 2013

US spies are secretly tapping into servers of nine Internet giants including Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Google in a vast anti-terror sweep targeting foreigners, explosive reports said Thursday.

But wait, there's more: A US spying Q&A

Jun 07, 2013

Wait, there's more? Yes, this was the week that America's intelligence secrets spilled out: Classified court orders. Top secret Power Point slides. Something called PRISM. It's pretty important stuff, once ...

Recommended for you

Brazil enacts Internet 'Bill of Rights'

1 hour ago

Brazil's president signed into law on Wednesday a "Bill of Rights" for the digital age that aims to protect online privacy and promote the Internet as a public utility by barring telecommunications companies ...

Brazil passes trailblazing Internet privacy law

Apr 23, 2014

Brazil's Congress on Tuesday passed comprehensive legislation on Internet privacy in what some have likened to a web-user's bill of rights, after stunning revelations its own president was targeted by US ...

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

RichManJoe
not rated yet Jun 11, 2013
I saw David Drummond on PBS News Hour tonight. He categorically said that they use a drop box to send the requested information to the FBI / NSA. If this is the case, there seems to be an inconsistency between this statement and what is in the PRISM slides. Why would the government have a slide like this with incorrect information on it? Who is wrong?
ScooterG
1 / 5 (3) Jun 11, 2013
Meanwhile, Disneyland collects the fingerprints of many many many thousands of world residents.
stealthc
not rated yet Jun 14, 2013
They don't want people to become paranoid? LOL! That's unfortunate, because people are now paranoid and shouldn't trust any of these companies.

More news stories

SK Hynix posts Q1 surge in net profit

South Korea's SK Hynix Inc said Thursday its first-quarter net profit surged nearly 350 percent from the previous year on a spike in sales of PC memory chips.

FCC to propose pay-for-priority Internet standards

The Federal Communications Commission is set to propose new open Internet rules that would allow content companies to pay for faster delivery over the so-called "last mile" connection to people's homes.

Brazil enacts Internet 'Bill of Rights'

Brazil's president signed into law on Wednesday a "Bill of Rights" for the digital age that aims to protect online privacy and promote the Internet as a public utility by barring telecommunications companies ...

Is nuclear power the only way to avoid geoengineering?

"I think one can argue that if we were to follow a strong nuclear energy pathway—as well as doing everything else that we can—then we can solve the climate problem without doing geoengineering." So says Tom Wigley, one ...

When things get glassy, molecules go fractal

Colorful church windows, beads on a necklace and many of our favorite plastics share something in common—they all belong to a state of matter known as glasses. School children learn the difference between ...

FDA proposes first regulations for e-cigarettes

The federal government wants to prohibit sales of electronic cigarettes to minors and require approval for new products and health warning labels under regulations being proposed by the Food and Drug Administration.