Google asked the federal government to lift the gag order regarding its Internet surveillance program. The online search giant cited the First Amendment right to inform the public about the number of requests it gets from the government for information about its customers for the sake of national security.
Google filed the motion in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The move was aimed at repairing the company’s reputation after it was named as one of the nine US online companies that gave the National Security Agency access to data on its user base. The NSA program known as PRISM was revealed by a former contractor and has sparked debates about the privacy of communications in the United States.
The publication of the data requests would answer questions about the number of Google users or accounts that was affected by the NSA program. But it would not answer how much data is being sent to the NSA or whether information from Americans was also involved in probes on overseas targets.
Google has already disclosed the amount of data requests it has received from civilian law enforcement. The company stated that combining security requests with criminal requests in a single report, which was what some companies were asked to do, would be a backward step for its users.
Alex Abdo, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, said that Internet companies should be allowed to release data on the requests. The government should also disclose its legal justification of the secret surveillance program.
Abdo added that the public has a right to know more about the government surveillance programs so that they can evaluate whether they are legal and necessary for the safety of the nation.