Google Publicly Reveals 8 Secret FBI Requests

Freed by security reforms adopted by Congress last year, Google yesterday published the redacted contents of eight National Security Letters (NSLs) it received from the Federal Bureau of Investigation between 2010 and 2015 requesting information on 21 user accounts.

U.S. government agencies can use NSLs to request certain types of information about the activities of users of Internet services and other communication services. Until the USA Freedom Act was passed in June 2015, agencies issuing NSLs could also impose indefinite gag orders to prevent recipients from ever publicizing those letters or even stating they had received any.

In June of this year, Yahoo became the first tech company to publicly disclose three NSLs it had received from the FBI. Google also published one NSL in its October Transparency Report and the Internet Archive published one earlier this month.

Publication To 'Shed Light on Nature of NSLs'

Over the years, a number of companies have challenged the use of indefinite gag orders to prevent them from releasing information related to NSLs; however, even with the passage of the USA Freedom Act, some gag orders remain in place. Some firms have also attempted to bypass those gag limitations by publishing so-called "warrant canaries," stating that they have not received NSLs or noting when they have received anywhere between 0 and 999 NSLs.

Google published the eight NSLs recently freed from gag orders to "shed more light on the nature and scope of NSLs," Richard Salgado, Google's director of law enforcement and information security, wrote yesterday in a blog post. He added that the letters had minimal redactions "to protect privacy interests, but the content of the NSLs remain as they were when served."

For example, an NSL from the FBI's North Carolina division dated Sept. 23, 2014, directed Google to provide the agency...

Comments are closed.