Northern, WI 04/05/2013 (usastockreport) – The operator of the biggest search-engine in the world, Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) (Current: $795.07, Down by 1.38%) has been asked to provide user data to the government as part of a security probe and is challenging the demand. It seems like this is the first time that a big communications company is resisting such a probe as it had already got a National Security Letter. This challenge comes on the heels of a ruling by a San Francisco Federal Judge which states that any NSL that has been issued without a warrant is unconstitutional. It hardly happens that a service provider stands up for users and Google is one of the best companies to challenge a demand such as this one. Since 2000, the government has issued 300,000 NSL’s and only 4-5 recipients have actually challenged them.
No questions asked…
In effect, NLS’s provide unquestionable powers to federal agents who can then spy on any user, say civil rights groups. The government on the other hand says that these NSL’s are crucial in the fight against national security threats and terrorism. In one of its first public disclosures in March, Google said that since 2009 it had received upto 999 NSL’s on an annual basis which have affected over 1,000 accounts. The legal director for law enforcement for Google, Richard Salgado said thanked the United States government officials for working with the company and helping it get attain a better insight into how NSL’s work.
The law will prevail
Legally, any company that has received an NSL can file a petition with a federal judge to have the request set aside. If the recipient is able to prove that the demand is oppressive, unreasonable or unlawful in nature, the judge can either modify or set aside the request. Susan Illston the U.S District judge granted the Google request of having the case document sealed. The objective ruling that she made stated that the very fact that the NSL legally prohibits recipients from revealing that that they have received an NSL indicates that the government is violating the right to free speech as well as the power principles separation that is an inherent part of any democracy.
She has also ordered the FBI to discontinue the issuance of NSL’s and has put a 90-day hold on her ruling. This is the time that the government can use to put forth an appeal. The situation now stands at a very interesting juncture where the government still has the upper hand in enforcing its authority in the matter.