Google Attempts Transparency on FBI's National Security Letters

Trying to navigate around gag orders


National security letters are the Fight Club of government data surveillance. Thanks to the gag orders that accompany those FBI requests for users' private information, the first rule for any company that receives an NSL is that it doesn't talk about receiving an NSL. Now Google is doing its best to blur–if not quite break–that rule.

In a new section of its bi-annual Transparency Report on government censorship and surveillance of its data, Google on Tuesday issued its first ever accounting of how many NSLs it has received for the last four years along with how many users were affected, albeit in extremely broad terms. For each of those years, for instance, Google says it has received less than one thousand NSLs. In 2012, those requests for users' data targeted somewhere between one and two thousand of its users, the same numbers as 2011 and down from between two and three thousand users affected in 2010.