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back to article Google mounts legal challenge to surveillance gag orders

Google has filed a legal petition "respectfully requesting" the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) release it from a gag order, and allow the company to tell users how often the NSA comes calling for data. "We have long pushed for transparency so users can better understand the extent to which governments request …

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Bronze badge

Given the power that FISC currently has we can't trust any numbers that are released even if there is more 'transparency'.

How can we know what if any limits are still in place given the attitude of 'secrecy-for-secrecy's-sake' that those in government seem to love?

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Meh

Misdirection, misinformation, disinformation

It's a way to take the heat off the NSA and change the headlines in the paper.

The Government will give in

The statistics they produce will be massaged and cleansed

The public will get the figures

The Government will claim transparency

Case closed.

But will we or should we believe them?

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How do we know?

FISC: You must say you can publish all data. There are no more secrets.

You must say you received 37 requests that effected 42 users.

You must not say we have access to your servers/networks.

You must not say this is all a load of crap that the FISC made up.

If they don't change the law, they can say anything they want, and no one can trust what they say. Get caught? No problem, here is your pardon and "can't touch me" pass.

The only way anyone could trust anything would be to change the law, and make the "get out of jail free" passes and pardons invalid for anyone caught breaking the law.

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Anonymous Coward

But that's not why Google challenges it..

Google's principal problem is that its association with a nation where all reasonableness and due process has abandoned is creating a reluctance to feed Google the data it needs. That is the only reason why Google seeks "transparency" - I'd like to see *GOOGLE* transparency on what data is gets via all the nifty backdoors it has been building in total defiance of EU privacy laws before I would stop smirking at its current holier-than-thou treatment of the US three letter clubs.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: But that's not why Google challenges it..

It seems I'm not the only one arriving at that conclusion..

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Anonymous Coward

Google mounts legal challenge ... now that it may affect their bottom line

Before all the bad publicity they were quite happy to do everything sub-rosa and screw their users (remembering we are not their customers, the advertisers are their customers).

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Facepalm

Re: Google mounts legal challenge ... now that it may affect their bottom line

Google actually does a good job of publishing information requests from law enforcement. What they want to publish now is the information the law prohibits them from sharing. It isn't Google's fault they aren't allowed to disclose the info.

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Re: Google mounts legal challenge ... now that it may affect their bottom line

It is indeed not their fault - but Nicho wasn't claiming that. He was merely pointing out that Google didn't stand up for their first amendment rights as a corporation (*sigh*) before it became public and thus starting hurting them financially. Quite happy to be unable to publish such numbers earlier.

NB: I am not saying that getting these numbers would be bad.

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Re: Google mounts legal challenge ... now that it may affect their bottom line

They weren't allowed to disclose anything about the process. Snowden exposed it publicly so there was no longer any reason to keep the governments secret. They had to get permission a few days ago just to say they they had received any FISA related warrants.

To accuse a company of 'not standing up for their rights' when it was made illegal for them to do so is asinine. I'm no Google fan but Christ.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Google mounts legal challenge ... now that it may affect their bottom line

@Don Jefe - You can't make the constitutional illegal and nor can you make it illegal to question the law.

You _can_ however, make it expensive to question the law and lose. Google didn't stand up for their rights, they did the math.

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Re: Google mounts legal challenge ... now that it may affect their bottom line

You can't make the constitutional illegal

You do know that the 4th amendment is effectively suspended any where within 100 miles of the border where federal agents can stop and search people without the protections offered to people elsewhere within the country? As for the 1st amendment GW Bush and free speech zones come to mind (god forbid you might want to exercise that right elsewhere).

Make the constitutional illegal? The government does that each day, and shows their contempt for that 'damned piece of paper' every time they do so.

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Re: Google mounts legal challenge ... now that it may affect their bottom line

You can't make the constitutional illegal

...and in cases where you can't get around the constitution you just magically remove the problem by deciding that it doesn't apply to certain people. Like those still in Guantanamo Bay.

'Unlawful combatant'. How convenient...

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Re: You can't make the constitutional illegal

Sure you can. And SCOTUS has been voting that way all too frequently since FDR.

What Google couldn't do was challenge it until the political waters were favorable to getting SCOTUS to vote the way they want it to because of public opinion.

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Coat

Re: Google mounts legal challenge ... now that it may affect their bottom line

You can't make the constitutional illegal"

Christ, no! Can you imagine the stomach cramps?

Daily enemas anyone? <shudders>

Coat. The one with the rubber hose and funnel in the pocket.

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Anonymous Coward

Google outright lied over the Wi-Fi sniffing scandal....

....So how can we trust them here? We've learned that Google is now all about power! They can call on No 10 anytime they want from previous Reg articles that highlight the pressure Google exerts. So I'd like an alternative option... For instance a dedicated service for privacy advocates below.....In time, I'd like to force the NSA to give up on this 'Person of Interest' spying farce, and return to old-school methods of intelligence gathering, such as stings etc.... It has worked well in the past....

Overall I can't see the big tech giants retrenching from their Ad-Driven / NSA friendly business lines anytime soon. Only if enough of the masses shift away from US tech over time. Then the giants might be forced to separate their companies and offer more tailored privacy and security. For instance offering Search Engines, Social Networks, or Phone and Tablet devices that do not track you whatsoever, with the cost embedded into the cost of the device or even the ISP's monthly charge....

The ISP's are missing a trick here! They could charge for a Startpage or Duckduckgo service by randomly submitting queries to search engines instead of giving the likes of google a free ride. But there needs to be a huge backlash to make this happen, and I don't see the sheeple starting a revolution until there's many more Snowden and Manning like revelations, with many more abuses flagged in the system... What we need is an Erin Brockovich / Silkwood / A Civil Action level of privacy scandal of epic proportions....

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Bronze badge

Frankly - I don't care if they are telling the truth or not -

I get provided with decent services that help me with my digital and my real life.

Streetview is a godsend and genuinely useful beyond the "oh look there is my house" novelty.

Android despite it's bugs is an absolute joy and being able to do such simple things like VPN into my home network and check the CCTV or fix an error with the weather station is something that always make me smile.

Chrome sync despite it's obvious security worries is still something that I enjoy - knowing that I can for instance visit Netweather on my mobile and check the lighting radar without logging in because I have already logged in on my laptop.

Google Mail is still infinitely better than Yahoo who I used to use.

Google Maps was and still is one of the most amazing products ever to come out of Google and still something that I use *at least* weekly.

As for advertising - I still hold the opinion that if I have to see adverts as I go about the internet - I would still prefer to see adverts about stuff I am actually interested in - rather than generic stuff.

So yes - there might well be plenty of reasons to distrust Google - but I'm not going to stop using them anytime soon......

As for people bringing up the WiFi thing again - sorry but I still hold the opinion that if people were stupid enough to broadcast unencrypted - that is their own stupid fault.

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@ Andrew Jones 2

Well said, have an upvote

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Anonymous Coward

@Andrew Jones 2

A sensible and rational comment. Are you sure you've come to the right place?

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Anonymous Coward

It is not a question of trusting or not trusting Google. It is a question of what do you trust them with. At personal level, corporate level and government level.

While at it, you use it _YOURSELF_ so you have made a concious choice to do it.

A lot of people did not have that choice - their ISP, company, etc outsourced mail and other apps to Google, loaded their data on Amazon or moved key applications to Rackspace. Most of us have pointed out long ago that the current interpretation of the privileges and immunities clause in the 14th amendment combined with US court rulings that these apply to corporations make for a very interesting legal landscape in doing so and US-Eu treaties offer _ZERO_ protection and _ZERO_ enforcement of any Eu law once the magic FISA/Patriot/National Security words have been mentioned.

We were brushed away in the name of glorious cloudy cost savings. Well, we were proven right. Damn right in fact.

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if people were stupid enough to broadcast unencrypted - that is their own stupid fault.

I agree.

Actually, I always wondered what that particular fuss was about.

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Boffin

Re: if people were stupid enough to broadcast unencrypted - that is their own stupid fault.

The fuss was about data aggregation by a company which should know better.

Thanking you.

P.S. In the cold light of day, are we sure that none of this data has ended up Cc'd to Utah?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: slurped data ending Cc'd in Utah

I'm sure the NSA can get better sources of data than a collection of 30 seconds of wi-fi data randomly slurped from home networks as the Street View car happened to be driving by. As a method of finding terrorists, this must be pretty inefficient.

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As for people bringing up the WiFi thing again - sorry but I still hold the opinion that if people were stupid enough to broadcast unencrypted - that is their own stupid fault.

If somebody leaves their house unlocked and gets burgled then they might have some questions to answer where the insurance company is concerned, but the burglar is no less guilty because of it.

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Anonymous Coward

@Andrew Jones 2

You do understand that Google helped Engineer stealing the election for the current occupier of the WH don't you? Without their data mining of your browsing habits and making them available to The Big 0's campaign and only his campaign, he wouldn't have won. And they plan to continue doing that in the next election cycle.

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Kind of - but -

Imagine a footpath that runs through a house -

an Unencrypted network would be your example with the door unlocked - in fact it's not just unlocked it is off it's hinges - anyone can and will walk straight in and through - if they take anything while they are there - well - that's the problem with unencrypted.

Now an encrypted network has a digital keypad on the front door and only people who know the 26 digit pin code can get into the house, though there are other options, such as knocking and waiting for someone to invite you in (WPS) . Like any house - someone determined enough can probably still get in if they want to - but the average housebreaker probably can't. Now - there is still a chance that stuff will be nicked from the house but it's a lot less likely than if you had no front door at all.

Now - in your example - someone entering someone else's house uninvited, regardless of whether there is a door or not - is called Trespassing and places you on dodgy ground, but robbing someone is definitely an illegal act. Connecting to an unencrypted wireless network (uninvited) is considered to be naughty - but AFAIK it's not actually illegal - since it's sort of fundamental to the way Wireless Networking works.

Now my understanding is that what Google did is even less complicated than that - they didn't actually connect to any wireless networks - they merely captured the radio packets as they drove past - what Google did is essentially no different at all to sticking a microphone on your car roof and driving about the country / world capturing private conversations between people as you drive past - there is no law against it.

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Re: @Andrew Jones 2

I'm in the UK so they can data mine my browsing all they like - it's not going to be any use to them for the situation you hypothesise - or at least - one would hope it is a hypothesis - otherwise - it is called "libel" and is a big deal on the internet now-a-days.

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Re: If somebody leaves their house unlocked

Poor analogy - nobody was unlawfully deprived of their possessions, or inconvenienced in any way.

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Holmes

Re: slurped data ending Cc'd in Utah

I suppose so, as Boston showed. Is it a method for finding terrorists though?

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Anonymous Coward

Offshoring

Google has offshored it's tax liability.

Why not just offshore their legal liability?

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Anonymous Coward

Google mounts legal challenge to surveillance gag orders

Well they would say that wouldn' t they.

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Sil

It's quite funny that one of the few company worse than NSA, violating privacy on a minute by minute basis via scripts that send information to ad servers & other counter servers with 99.99% of internet users not realizing what is happening, not even counting the (soon to be illegal?) consolidated 'privacy' policy, the strong-arming into google+ accounts (eg YouTube) for faking user of self proclaimed social network is now improvising itself a would be defender of internet user rights.

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Catch 22

But,but,but....even if the FISC says they CAN release details they won't be able to because the activities and decisions of the FISC are secret so they can't tell anyone they're allowed to release details.

If it's secret it isn't a court and it isn't justice - at least in the way that people understand the concept of justice ina democracy.

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Look! See what we did? Now you know you can trust us to stand up for your rights.

Click here to register your rights with us, and we will protect them from now on.

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This post has been deleted by its author

FAIL

Plausible Deniability

I don't believe a word of it. The laws involved give them plausible deniability - they are permitted to lie under law - so they can issue whatever denials they want about government mass snooping.

What Google are doing here is playing a game with the NSA where the NSA will furnish them with a further lie, giving some figures on specific requested information on customer data, whilst ignoring the mass trawl that is going on. The point being to fool the people into believing the direct requests are ALL the requests, and burying the mass snooping that is going on.

Unfortunately, I think they will be allowed this request, will then publish the direct *requests* and people will then believe they are safe from the eavesdropping of the state.

The whole thing stinks, especially when you consider that any terrorist with IT knowledge will just be using a VPN (like TorGuard etc) anyway. The data being snooped on will eventually be used for things like people filing incorrect tax returns etc.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Plausible Deniability

and people will then believe they are safe from the eavesdropping of the state.

I think that boat has sailed, hopefully permanently.

Truth be told, you as ordinary citizen will never have the means to protect yourself from state intercept (to quote one of our people: "the only way to protect yourself from intelligence services, is to get a competing intelligence service to protect you"). Normally, this is not a problem provided you are protected from abuse of this ability.

This is, however, the key issue: by fully barring access to any sort of trustworthy supervision and transparency you can no longer be sure that such wide ranging abilities are not abused. Those privileges and abilities were only granted for exceptional circumstances, because that's what they told the voters when it had to become law, but by removing any oversight they have created a situation where any normal citizen has to wonder what THEY have to hide. As it turns out, a lot. Mass surveillance does not add to security, but sure as hell detracts from your rights.

I really hope the next time someone comes with the words "emergency" and "temporary" to pass any sort of law that gives even more power away, this person will be summarily tarred and feathered. I also recommend keeping an eye on all those extensions of "temporary" laws - as far as I can tell, most of those have been renewed without as much as a discussion on the matter.

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Black Helicopters

As the general public keep getting told "if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about", perhaps this should be the attitude towards the NSA/GCHQ

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Holmes

We've all felt mounted by Google at one time or another

The NSA wants to let the Law be the line Google is creeping up on (in the words of Eric Schmidt).

It simply doesn't work for both the NSA and The Google. The Courts can not oblige both. At some point either the NSA must say what it will not do (Terrorists, we have to throw stuff out after 3 years, act accordingly) or Google will have to be told what it cannot do (Whaaaat? get your hands of my "creativity and innovation").

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