March 5, 2013
When conducting national security investigations, the FBI can request identifying information from companies. At the same time, the FBI could prohibit companies like "Don't Be Evil" company Google (NASDAQ: GOOG ) from talking to the public. Now Google is finally revealing user details regarding U.S. government investigations into Google accounts.
After working with U.S. government officials, Google figured out a way to notify the public on FBI investigations. Starting today, Google is including data on the FBI's national security letters, or NSLs, in its Transparency Report.
In the report, Google says it was unable to list exact numbers because the FBI was concerned that it might lead to revealing information about investigations. Google plans to update the figures annually.
In its NSLs, FBI can obtain "the name, address, length of service, and local and long distance toll billing records" from electronic and telecom customers. But it can't access Google information from certain products such as Gmail, search, and YouTube, or even user IP addresses.
Google says it attempts to ensure user security in four ways:
- It examines each request to ensure that it satisfies the law and Google's policies.
- It tries to narrow the request.
- It notifies its users when appropriate about the inquiring entity so that they may consult a lawyer.
- It requires agencies to provide a search warrant to access private information, such as Gmail and Google Docs.
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