Even though the original story has fallen apart, the prevailing narrative at certain publications and on social media is that the NSA has been granted sweeping, direct-access to American’s data without oversight by the likes of Google, Apple, and Microsoft.
The truth is any data provided to the government is provided in accordance with Section 702 of FISA, is approved by the FISA court, and only applies to foreign persons.
Google is asking for permission from the Department of Justice to prove it since their word clearly isn’t good enough for ambulance-chasing columnists.
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.
I find it perplexing that certain people blindly agree to Terms of Service agreements and maintain virtually every detail of their lives on their Android and iPhones, but they won’t take Google’s, Apple’s, or Microsoft’s word for it when they say they haven’t provided the government direct access to all of your data.
Are you really that afraid of the government? Were you ever really that concerned about your privacy, or is a chance to tread on the usual territory of Glenn Beck and Alex Jones for one news-cycle too tempting to resist? This entire event shouldn’t leave any doubt why they have such large fan bases. They too often report stories in a manner that may sound plausible in passing while leaving out key details. And they never issue corrections.
Unfortunately, even if Google is granted permission to prove that they aren’t providing the government direct-access to all of your data, I suspect that won’t sway some minds.
The debate is quickly morphing into an all-encompassing hydra of distrust in government and conspiracy. If you were just tuning in it might be difficult to even discern what the original allegations entailed.