Google sees 33 percent rise in National Security Letters from FBI-CORRECTION

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March 7, 2013 - Correction: This article erroneously states the percentage increase of FBI National Security Letters received by Google, mistaking a spike in non-NSL law enforcement data requests for NSLs. NSLs sent to Google over the past four years have remained in a consistent range: 0-999 per year, according to company data. We deeply regret the error.


The number of National Security Letters that Google receives from the FBI seeking user data is growing significantly, according to the company's latest transparency report. In 2012, the search engine company saw a 30 percent spike in NSLs from the FBI.

There were 8,438 NSLs from the FBI at the end of 2012 requesting Google user data, compared with 6,321 NSLs at the end of 2011, finds the report. Nevertheless, over the same period last year, the number of requests in which Google actually complied and produced some user data to the FBI dropped from 93 percent to 88 percent.  

Under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the FBI can seek "the name, address, length of service, and local and long distance toll billing records" of a subscriber to a wire or electronic communications service. The NSLs sent to Google and other tech companies by the FBI serve as written certifications that the information requested is "relevant to an authorized investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities."

Although it is Google's practice to notify users about requests for their data from the government when appropriate, the FBI has the power to prohibit the recipient of an NSL from disclosing the fact that it has received the document by certifying that disclosure may result in "a danger to the national security of the United States, interference with a criminal, counterterrorism, or counterintelligence investigation, interference with diplomatic relations, or danger to the life or physical safety of any person."

For more:

-go to the Google transparency report

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