FBI asked for user data without a warrant according to Google

FBI asked for user data without a warrant according to Google
Google revealed in a transparency statement that the FBI requested, in the form of National Security Letters (NSL), data on at least 1,000 accounts.

NSLs are used during investigations involving national security and the types of information these letters seek do not break the threshold of where a warrant would be required. Despite that, these letters are controversial and their use increased dramatically after September 11, 2001.

National Security Letters are also accompanied by strict gag-orders which makes the report from Google even more interesting. Google is constantly under the spotlight over privacy issues. To alleviate those concerns, the company issues annual transparency reports about the types of information that is asked of it by various governments or agencies. Most of the time, entities are not even allowed to acknowledge receipt of these letters, let alone provide a range requests made.

Last year, Google received between 0 and 999 letters pertaining to accounts of 1,000 to 1,999 people. The type of information provided does not involve email content or IP addresses, but may include meta data, to/from information and activity logs.  The range of numbers, instead of specific number of requests was provided in an effort to not reveal any clues as to specific investigations that might be underway.

Given the secrecy NSLs are usually given, it is interesting to see the Department of Justice work with Google in this way to reveal a scope of activity. The range of requests is very narrow as well in the context of how vast Google’s user base is. Assuming that Google has about 400 million active accounts, and 1,999 of those accounts were queried, that works out to about 0.00049% of the account base. So while these letters are clearly not being circulated with reckless abandon, their controversial nature is probably not diminished too much.

You learn more about Google’s policies regarding user data requests and NSLs here.

sources: Google via The Wall Street Journal



1. nobelset

Posts: 270; Member since: Oct 17, 2012

This is the reason why Google is hated by governments and is being sued. Shame on them...

2. Whateverman

Posts: 3295; Member since: May 17, 2009

Shame on who, Google or the governments that sue them? From what I read and saw, Google hasn't done anything wrong.

3. Reluctant_Human

Posts: 913; Member since: Jun 28, 2012

The shame is the law that was passed that make this possible. The government should need a warrant to get this information.

4. 14545

Posts: 1835; Member since: Nov 22, 2011

Exactly. We citizens of a constitutional republic deserve the privacy the constitution afforded us. Even if this law doesn't directly go against the 4th amendment, the intent is there. Therefore, it should be stopped.

5. MikeG77

Posts: 426; Member since: Nov 24, 2008

There are so many ways for me to rip your comment apart but ill be nice and put it this way for you. Regardless if it was the US gov't or your local police they should need a warrant to request any information that is classified as private. We the people are entitled to a certain level of privact and if something like this were to be acceptable what would stop our gov't from contacting your bank, medical insurance etc etc??? Like most post 9/11 laws they are written to vaguely and it seems this administartion is taking advantage of it. This whole situation makes me laugh because the president consistently talks about how his administation is so transparent and yet Eric Holder just said the president can authozire the death of an American citizen via drone strike on American soil. The scary part is that he does not need congressional approval.

6. Razorback556

Posts: 9; Member since: Dec 18, 2012

Good to see not everyones head is in the sand about whats really going on. Spread the word fellow Patriot!

7. MorePhonesThanNeeded

Posts: 645; Member since: Oct 23, 2011

Fine line here isn't it, but then again who is to say that the common "citizen' isn't some disenfranchised individual who has decided to switch allegiances and work with organizations who threaten the safety and livelihood of citizens of this country? Then what do you say? It's ok in those instances? You forget not every criminal is dumb, in fact some of the best criminal are those who are well versed in law and it's limitation and will exploit that fact. So when you go around talking about your privacy it's fine, but are you still adamant about it when someone who is supposedly a citizen but is plotting to harm his fellow man? Who's job is it to somehow get information and perhaps thwart that individual and perhaps find out who else is involved? It's a big game of outwitting the law, smart criminals don't act out they remain reserved and work within the confines of the law and use weak willed people like the guy who tried to blow up a plane with his homemade shoe bomb...funny he was a "citizen" just like the rest of us. Google has done right by releasing these queries because it's not good to withhold such information from the public, well the more level headed public, there are the tinfoil hat crowd who go apes**t over privacy concerns but honestly, only thing is private is what you do behind closed doors, anything that leaves the confines of your home isn't private anymore because it can be intercepted and witnessed by others. Therefore a private phone call is anything but that, there is a 3rd party involved and this party isn't actively involved in the call. So what is private when what you do, doesn't remain within confines of enclosed area you are in (home, office etc...). I'm not a friend of these types of information rustling but you have to wonder about the definition of privacy and what individuals are trying to cover up. Face it the common citizen doesn't have much in the way of law breaking private matters that the government worry about, in fact people who complain a lot are the one with skeleton's in their closets, what are you hiding that you need some sort of privacy from your nations security? They already know how much money you make and where you work as well as secure information like ss number and tax id, seriously what are you worried about when your most precious information identifying you is already in their hands? What's worse is people wanting privacy are the same one's wanting transparent government...what sort of one way thinking is that, both must be transparent don't come with that one sided stuff. Just remember we have some of those people in government today mucking things up so it's just one big mess. The day we have transparent government and citizens the world will cease to exist, because it's impossible for man to relinquish his thirst to be better than the other man. This is something that won't happen in anyone's life time.

8. MikeG77

Posts: 426; Member since: Nov 24, 2008

You may wanna berak up your giant post into paragraphs. It will make it way easier to read. Like i said in my post if the gov't has reasonable cause and has a WARRANT then i am fine with them going in and looking but you must realize that if the gov't were to look at your emails then they dont have to tell you for 365 AFTER they have investigated you. I agree that the term privacy is too vague but if we use your logic then you and I COULD be considered one of the bad guys if we have a differing opinion. This means that the president could authorize us to be investigated for no reason and potential issue a hit against us under the guise that we are enemies of the state. Yes that scenario is highly unlikely but so many weird things have happened in the last few yrs that it wouldn't suprise me if something like this occured.

11. Reluctant_Human

Posts: 913; Member since: Jun 28, 2012

The government should be on a very high level of transparency with how its run and the policies it has in place. We are a democratic republic therefore part of the government. A fact that many people forget including the elected officials and fellow citizens. The exception being there must be some level of privacy for defense, national security and investigations. However, we must not sacrifice them almost completely like the patriot act does. It's not simply if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to worry about. That's a cop out and BS argument.

10. DaNTRoN

Posts: 135; Member since: Jul 23, 2012

I truly feel sorry for anyone who believes there is a difference between criminals and law makers....

12. Reluctant_Human

Posts: 913; Member since: Jun 28, 2012

Very big difference. A criminal does his job and if he does it bad his career ends.

13. D_Tech-tive

Posts: 104; Member since: Feb 12, 2012

Funny how when you work for an agency it's ok to steal someones info and personal data and call it an investigation. But if your average joe does it's called theft of personal information or privacy invasion! Punishable by jail time and fines, but it's ok for the Gov't! Even without proof, a warrant or a trial! This is why there is no faith in our Gov't!

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