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Google Asks Secret Court to Allow Publishing Aggregate Numbers of Data Requests
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On Tuesday, Google Inc requested the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to allow it to publish the numbers of requests it receives from the NSA. Google invoked its First Amendment rights in its arguments and said the right to disclose the number of requests it receives from the NSA fell under free speech.

However, it is not known how far it is going to aid public interest in knowing the number of NSA requests made, as far as the natures of those requests remain impossible to reveal for reasons of national security.

Google’s move comes in response of trying to protect its user base following the Snowden leak. The petition filed by Google at the FISC observed, “In light of the intense public interest generated by the Guardian’s and Post’s erroneous articles, and others that have followed them, Google seeks to increase its transparency with users and the public regarding its receipt of national security requests, if any.”

  
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Tech companies like Microsoft, Facebook, and Apple struck an agreement with the U.S. government last week and released some information about the aggregate numbers of data requests made by government to the companies. However, those numbers were not separated into how many of those data requests were from the federal governments and how many from state or local governments or law enforcement agencies. The agreement permits the companies to release the aggregate numbers for a six-month period.

Major tech companies situated in U.S. are desperate to win back the trust of users and retain users after it was revealed by the Washington Post and Guardian that the NSA had “direct access” to the servers of these companies under the PRISM program.

Google also said that though it wanted to publish the aggregate number of NSA requests, the US DOJ and the FBI had told it that such an act would be considered illegal.

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U.S. based tech companies, of course, were not so concerned about First Amendment rights of themselves or the right to information of the people, before the Snowden leak, as far as NSA surveillance was concerned. However, now one thing has become clear to the public across the world, that if you have data on a server in the U.S., the NSA can have access to it.

The real fear felt by the U.S. tech companies is possible rise of competitors in other countries whose servers cannot be legally accessed by the NSA, and who are not compliant to U.S. laws. This, however, is bound to happen once the cat is out of the bag.



Mass surveillance and data gathering and storing without reasonable suspicion, where the records can be accessed later at will by anyone who comes in control of such data, is a reality in U.S. democracy.

While it is of no concern to the ordinary citizen engrossed with daily struggles – the fact remains that the back of any voice of social or political dissent can be broken in an instant, with their connections and social circles exposed from past records collected and stored methodically – if people who have control over the data ever think of putting it to use according to their exigencies.

If such data is on U.S. based servers or on servers of U.S. based companies.

So, competitors and social media companies or search engines who have their servers elsewhere in the world and not subject to PRISM now have a chance of success unless U.S. tech companies can come up with solutions and guarantees acceptable to their user bases.

This is the problem that U.S. tech companies now have to address.



 

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