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Federal Judge Orders Google to Follow FBI’s Directive

May 31, 2013

Google FBI letters

By Cynthia Herbert :: 9:57 PM

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston today turned down Google’s request to modify or throw out the FBI’s directive to follow a set of  National Security Letters (NSL).

The NSLs allow for warrantless electronic data-gathering that does not need to be approved by a court. The ruling comes after two top-level FBI staffers provided classified testimony to Illston’s San Francisco court.

NSLs have quickly become points of controversy with many, as they allow for the government to send secret requests to telecommunications providers to retrieve personal and account information about users as long as the data requested is relevant to a current national security investigation. Court approval is not required for the data to be handed over, and the FBI keeps all such data requests secret.

Google is the first major communications company to resist the FBI’s demands for compliance. The government has issued about 300,000 NSLs since 2000, and in that time, only a handful of recipients have challenged the legality of the letter.

The company has not yet publicly commented on the court’s decision.