This is the first time when Google makes public national security letters. The company allows the public to have a view of some secret documents which contain requirements from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The FBI demanded data regarding individual account holders. Sharing confidential information is part of Google’s attributions regarding their customers, and they need to be fulfilled.
Many Internet companies are bound to publish national security letters in the context of their business. Usually, they have been prohibited from admitting the existence of this type of secret information. Back in 2013, all this had changed when Google together with other top companies of the kind fought to unveil data about the demands they receive.
That discussion led to the issuing of a “transparency report” by Google. The document consists of data which proved Google gets many requests that imply sharing user data on a monthly basis from several law enforcement agencies from all over the world. Until now, this national security letters remained secret.
But on December 13 Google decided to publish some of them which are no longer protected by nondisclosure regulations. Eight such letters were shared with the public. They cover a time span which started in March 2010 and ended in September 2015. These letters demanded private data concerning 21 user accounts.
All the email addresses have been revised. All of them were published except one username which is covered, revealing only the fact that they have a @gmail.com account. Another email address is completely covered, probably indicating that it could be a non-Gmail user who owns an account which was hosted on Google servers.
These eight letters are similar. They indicate the law 18 U.S. Code 2709, then providing the length of service, electronic communications transactional records, address, and name, all associated with the account. They also argued that the FBI is currently not reading to reveal the content of the email messages sent from those specific accounts.
Due to the existence of the USA Freedom Act, Google has the permission to publish some of the national security letters. This act was issued in response to the Snowden revelation, sharing the idea of transparency when it comes to demands which concern government surveillance. Legally, Google obtained the FBI’s approval to publish the identities of the users, but Google refused to do so.
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