Google: Beware FBI is watching the web

March 10, 2013

Earlier this week, as part of the Google Transparency Report, the Internet giant released data this week on so called National Security Letters official requests for data under the Patriot Act. Google revealed that Federal Bureau of Investigation well known as FBI, is monitoring the web for potential terrorist activity although it did not confirm the extent of the surveillance. Google said it was only allowed to provide broad ranges of numbers in the years from 2009 to 2012, for example, it received between zero and 999 requests. The requests affected between 1,000 and 1,999 accounts, except in 2010, when the range was 2,000 to 2,999 accounts. In his blog post, Google law enforcement and information security director Richard Salgado said Google reported numerical ranges rather than exact numbers.

Salgado added that this is to address concerns raised by the FBI, Justice Department and other agencies that releasing exact numbers might reveal information about investigations. He thanked government officials for collaborating with Google in providing greater insight into the use of National Security Letters. The numbers, while inexact, were believed to be the first data from a private company about the requests, criticized by civil liberties groups for giving the government too much power to conduct surveillance without a warrant. Despite a lack of exact data, Google has helped to at least shed some limited light on the ways in which the US government uses these secretive demands for data about users. One inspector general review found serious deficiencies in the FBI’s handling of the process and noted that the letters concerned tens of thousands of US citizens and non-Americans from all over the world.

Contador Harrison