Saying that its reputation and business has been harmed by false reports in the media that the government had direct access to its data, Google petitioned the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to allow it to report separately aggregate numbers of national security requests and FISA disclosures.
Google's move ratchets up a growing campaign among the Internet companies to out-do each other in privacy and transparency.
Since the Washington Post and the Guardian first published reports that the federal government was mining data from Google and several other big Internet companies, the web giants have gone on the offensive. In addition to a statement denying the government had direct access, Google also sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and the FBI asking if it could publish more request data. While other Internet companies, including as Microsoft, Facebook and Apple, decided to go ahead and publish some data as part of law enforcement requests, Google stood its ground.
"Lumping national security requests together with criminal requests, as some companies have been permitted to do, would be a backward step for our users," Google said in a statement.
In the filing, Google argued that it has a First Amendment right to publish both the total number of FISA requests it receives and the total number of users or accounts covered under the request.
"Google's users are concerned by the allegations. Google must respond to such claims with more than generalities," the company wrote.
If Google gets the go-ahead from the FISA court, it intends to add the two numbers, reported as a range, as part of its regular transparency report for national security letters.