WASHINGTON — For the first time in the companies history, Google released numbers relating to requests from the FBI demanding information about users’ names, addresses and local and long distance billing records, DigitalJournal.com reported Wednesday.
According to DigitalJournal.com, Google has received no less than one thousand National Security Letters from the FBI in the last four years asking for web users’ personal information. In the second half of 2012, Google received a request for data relating to 14,791 accounts.
Most of the requests were made by the FBI with the permission of subpoenas and search warrants, Forbes said. However, more than 1,000 Google users had their data requested through “other” means.
The FBI routinely asks browsers and search engines for users’ history. The 2001 Patriot Act greatly expanded the ability for the FBI to request information sometimes granting warrant-less access to records held by “financial institutions, credit agencies and travel agencies.”
According to Forbes magazine, the requests for NSLs come under criticism because of the secrecy involved, and the possible intrusion into people’s private life by the government. Forbes called NSLs “one of the most frightening and invasive of all the dangerous government surveillance powers that were expanded by the Patriot Act.”
According to Google, NSLs can not demand such things as search histories or Gmail content.