Just days after reaching an agreement with the Justice Department that allows big tech firms to disclose more information about data they share with the government, search giant Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) has done just that.
Google on Monday disclosed for the first time all requests originating from the government under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
“We believe the public deserves to know the full extent to which governments request user information from Google,” Google wrote in a blog posted on the company’s web site.
The companies -- Google, Facebook (FB), Microsoft (MSFT), LinkedIn (LNKD), Yahoo (YHOO) and Apple (AAPL) -- came under fire last year when it was revealed that they shared information with the government culled from social media sites created and operated by the companies and devices sold by them.
The embarrassing revelations came to light as part of national security policy leaks by former security contractor Edward Snowden.
In the wake of those revelations, the tech companies sued the DOJ and the two sides litigated for months over the tech companies’ desire to disclose more about the information they are compelled to give to federal law enforcement agencies, specifically the National Security Agency.
Google noted on Monday that until the agreement with the DoJ was reached last week the government opposed efforts by big tech firms to publish any information related to data sought by the government under FISA.
The blog post explained that under FISA the government can apply for orders from a special FISA Court to require U.S. companies to turn over users’ personal information and the content of their communications.
“Although FISA was passed by elected representatives and is available for anyone to read, the way the law is used is typically kept secret. Last summer’s revelations about government surveillance remind us of the challenges that secrecy can present to a democracy that relies on public debate,” Google said in the blog.
Last year Google filed a lawsuit asking the FISA Court to allow the company to disclose the number of FISA requests the search engine company receives and how many users/accounts they include.
Google said it had previously been granted permission to publish information about National Security Letters, but FISA requests were the only remaining type of demands excluded from their disclosure report.
“Today, for the first time, our report on government requests for user information encompasses all of the requests we receive, subject only to delays imposed by the DoJ regarding how quickly we can include certain requests in our statistics,” the company said.