Google today became the first Internet company to shed light on a highly secret — and controversial — warrantless electronic data-gathering technique used by the FBI.
The technique allows FBI officials to send a secret request to Web and telecommunications companies requesting “name, address, length of service,” and other information about users as long as it’s relevant to a national security investigation. No court approval is necessary, and disclosing the existence of the FBI’s request is not permitted.
Google’s admission, part of its transparency policy, could not include specific details, but they did say this much.
Because of that legal prohibition, Google was able to disclose only the numerical ranges of requests it receives per year. Today’s addition to the company’s Transparency Report says that the company received somewhere between zero and 999 requests from the FBI seeking data on its users, targeting a total of between 1,000 and 1,999 accounts last year.
Math isn’t my best subject but I’m guessing that the FBI looking at a minimum of 1000 users probably means that there were more than zero requests. (No duh!?) So the Feds are adding a twist to my oft-stated maxim: “There is no privacy on the Internet.” Unless you are the FBI. Then it is against the law to reveal the nature of the secret warrentless requests for personal information about others.