SAN FRANCISCO -- Google on Tuesday asked the government for permission to reveal details about the classified requests the technology company receives for the personal information of foreign users.
It is the first time that Google has publicly acknowledged that it has received requests under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which forbids companies from acknowledging the existence of requests or revealing any details about them. The technology company added that it complies with far fewer of these requests than it receives.
Google made the request after revelations of the National Security Agency's secret surveillance program, known as Prism. The data the government collects as part of Prism – including email messages, telephone records and online chats -- is legally authorized by FISA.
Google made the request in a letter from David Drummond, Google's chief legal officer, to Eric H. Holder, the attorney general, and Robert S. Mueller, the director of the F.B.I.
In the letter, Mr. Drummond expressed frustration that the company has been unable, because of a government gag order, to explain the details of how it shares user data with the government. He asked for permission to publish both the number of national security requests, including FISA disclosures, that Google receives, and their scope.
"Google's numbers would clearly show that our compliance with these requests falls far short of the claims being made," Mr. Drummond wrote. "Google has nothing to hide."
Mr. Drummond was unavailable for an interview. In a statement, Leslie Miller, a Google spokeswoman, said that of Google's hundreds of millions of users worldwide, "only a tiny fraction" are subject to government data requests each year.
"If we could publish those numbers openly, as we are asking, they would show that our compliance with these national security requests falls far short of the claims being made," Ms. Miller said.interact
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.