Earlier in the week we shared breaking news about Verizon being forced to give up customer phone records to the NSA by a Top Secret Court order. A political and ethical firestorm erupted and it has dominated the mainstream news scene ever since.

More info has since come to light, and the whistleblower himself, a man named Edward Snowden, came forward admitting he was the one who leaked the documents. Snowden formerly worked for the CIA and also just recently worked as a contractor for the NSA. He is now hiding out in Hong Kong while the U.S. Government debates on how to get him back and possibly prosecute him as a traitor. Some are hailing him as a hero. He gave up a $200,000 dollar a year job, his family and his girlfriend, knowing that leaking the evidence would probably ruin his life. Of course, there are two sides to this debate and there are those who would argue he betrayed an important duty. Our Government is simply trying to do the impossible job of protecting us from possible terrorism by gathering as much data as possible to predict future events. It is perhaps the greatest balancing act a government can perform, trying to weigh safety and security versus freedom and liberty.

Regardless, this is not a political forum and the secret universal answers to this issue will probably not be discovered here. However, there is something that is specifically relevant to our forum that we would like to share with you today. One of the documents Snowden leaked also talked about a secret NSA program called PRISM which is basically a secret wiretapping of our biggest internet and technology companies like Google, Microsoft, Apple and many more. Supposedly, the network activity for these companies has been closely monitored by the NSA for some time. All of the big names came forward denying it. Google has been particularly vocal about this, and Larry Page even took the stage expressing disgust and assuring Google customers that their servers are 100% secure and none of their data has been given to the government unless a valid and non-secret legal request has been made.

Today, Google took things a step further and has called out the U.S. Government on this issue. Google sent a legal request to the U.S. Government requesting Google be given the ability to be more transparent and publicly publish even more national security related data. Here's a quote with the full blog post from Google,

Asking the U.S. government to allow Google to publish more national security request data

This morning we sent the following letter to the offices of the Attorney General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Read the full text below. -Ed.

Dear Attorney General Holder and Director Mueller

Google has worked tremendously hard over the past fifteen years to earn our users’ trust. For example, we offer encryption across our services; we have hired some of the best security engineers in the world; and we have consistently pushed back on overly broad government requests for our users’ data.

We have always made clear that we comply with valid legal requests. And last week, the Director of National Intelligence acknowledged that service providers have received Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requests.

Assertions in the press that our compliance with these requests gives the U.S. government unfettered access to our users’ data are simply untrue. However, government nondisclosure obligations regarding the number of FISA national security requests that Google receives, as well as the number of accounts covered by those requests, fuel that speculation.

We therefore ask you to help make it possible for Google to publish in our Transparency Report aggregate numbers of national security requests, including FISA disclosures—in terms of both the number we receive and their scope. Google’s numbers would clearly show that our compliance with these requests falls far short of the claims being made. Google has nothing to hide.

Google appreciates that you authorized the recent disclosure of general numbers for national security letters. There have been no adverse consequences arising from their publication, and in fact more companies are receiving your approval to do so as a result of Google’s initiative. Transparency here will likewise serve the public interest without harming national security.

We will be making this letter public and await your response.

David Drummond
Chief Legal Officer
So far, the response to Google taking the government to task on this issue has been resoundingly positive. Google is being hailed for their courage and their renewed dedication to further transparency. Basically Google is making it clear they won't stand for what has happened, and they want to prove beyond any doubt that they have not been coerced by the U.S. Government. It's laudable that Google was the first to take such a hard-line in the sand stance, and it will be interesting to see if other companies follow suit. Share your thoughts on Google's move and what you think might come about from this action.

Thanks for the tip, wicked!

Source: Google Blog