National Security Letter requests a new addition to transparency reports from Google, Microsoft
Microsoft’s release this week of its first transparency report about what user information and data governments seek from it included data about one of the most secret, and controversial, of all requests — National Security Letters from the FBI.
Google earlier this month added NSL data to the quarterly reports it had been releasing for several years. (See charts below).
Both companies, which are prohibited from providing specific information about the highly secretive FBI requests, reported they both had under 1,000 requests last year related to between 1,000 and 1,999 of its users. Both numbers were a decrease for Microsoft over 2011; for Google, the numbers were the same.
National Security Letters are demands from the FBI for certain information about someone — and they can come along with a order to not even disclose that a request was made. For communication providers, data requested includes “the name, address, length of service, and local and long distance toll billing records” that is “relevant to an authorized investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities.”
“The FBI can’t use NSLs to obtain anything else from Google, such as Gmail content, search queries, YouTube videos or user IP addresses,” Google notes in a FAQ about the NSLs.
Microsoft’s NSL requests
Google’s NSL requests
SOURCE: Microsoft and Google.