Worried about losing trust with users, Google asked the government today to let it publish more national security request data.
The letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI Director Robert Mueller requested that the government allow Google to publish in its transparency report aggregate numbers of national security requests, including Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act disclosures.
Google's request comes amid reports that the National Security Agency had a virtual pipeline into Google users' online information and activities. Although Google and several of the other Internet companies issued statements explaining that the NSA did not have direct access to their databases, the damage was done.
"Google has worked tremendously hard over the past 15 years to earn our users' trust," wrote David Drummond, Google's chief legal officer. "Assertions in the press that our compliance with these requests gives the U.S. government unfettered access to our users' data are simply untrue. However, government nondisclosure obligations regarding the number of FISA national security requests that Google receives, as well as the number of accounts covered by those requests, fuel that speculation."
Though Microsoft and Google are often at each other's competitive throats, the two are of like minds when it comes to greater transparency about the government's request for data. "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. Our recent report went as far as we legally could, and the government should take action to allow the companies to provide additional transparency," Microsoft said in a statement.
Following Google and Microsoft's lead, Yahoo added its voice to the appeal. "We recognize the importance of privacy and security, and we also believe that transparency around the number of FISA requests will help the public trust," a Yahoo spokesperson said in a statement.