Will Google's Request to Publish Secret Court Orders Do Anything?

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Google has filed a motion to end the gag order on the secret FISA court requests that it gets from the government as a part of the National Security Agencies surveillance, which could work considering how recent efforts to reveal the secrets of the secret court have gone. Just the other day, right after we all learned about PRISM, the court granted the Electronic Frontier Foundation a legal victory in its battle to uncover some of the secret courts secrets. Of course, that was just one tiny step in the path toward more transparency. And, the court made the current FISA disclosure deal with other tech companies, hoping to not give up this exact information. Plus, Google has tried this kind of thing before, asking for an end to National Security Lettersand failed. But, maybe other tech companies will hop and pressure the government to change its position? 

The way it stands now, Google — among other tech companies cooperating with the program — can only publish the total number of requests it gets, both FISC ordered and otherwise. Google would like to outline the requests separately  and has refused to participate in that method calling it a "step back for users." "Greater transparency is needed, so today we have petitioned the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to allow us to publish aggregate numbers of national security requests, including FISA disclosures, separately," Google said in a statement per the Washington Post's Craig Timberg. The filing also mentions the First Amendment. 

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Under the proposed system, Google would report a range of FISC orders as a separate part of its transparency report and how many users those requests affected. It would not give any more details about the nature of the FISA order. All Google wants to do it show the public around how many of these its getting a year: it's pretty innocuous and, yes, more transparent. Though, the way President Obama sees it, the current system is transparency in action. 

The Google version should sounds very good to users, who just the other day were concerned that Google let the NSA have a back door right into its servers, grabbing all our information whenever it wants. But, that's all this might be: A way for Google to look good. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.