03/06/2013 01:44 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

FBI Blocks Google's Latest Effort On Transparency

Google is trying to be up front about how it protects your privacy, but the FBI is in the way.

On Tuesday, Google put out a blog post explaining how the FBI gathers users' data, but the FBI blocked the company from providing much in the way of detail.

The post, entitled "Transparency Report: Shedding more light on National Security Letters," laid out the way the FBI requests information from Google by issuing National Security Letters (requests for information) to Google in order to receive information like customers' names, addresses, and billing records. The FBI must demonstrate that the information they request is “relevant to an authorized investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities.” Google informs users whose information is being requested unless the FBI feels that doing so would be a national security issue.

Google released the number of National Security Letters it has received each year. That is, Google tried to release the numbers but the FBI and Justice Department wouldn't allow it, so what we're left with is the exceedingly vague table below:

google fbi

Google is seemingly desperate to provide users with more facts regarding the FBI's role in privacy, and it has released a lot of material about how the government gets your information. Google has been releasing this information for years, andTwitter has released similar transparency reports, but Facebook has never published a transparency report.

Americans trust Google with so much of their personal information. We use Google to send and receive email, for word processing, to search the web, to organize our schedules, even with our financial records. In a way, releasing this data is a gesture of goodwill to users, who, judging from the Facebook backlash, are often concerned about where their personal information is going.

Google is giving us as much information as it is allowed. Unfortunately, Google, though powerful, is no match for the federal government, so don't expect too much more information anytime soon.



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