Google's chief legal officer David Drummond has defended his company against allegations that it allowed the National Security Agency backdoor access to its users' private data and said search giant "not in cahoots" with NSA.

David Drummond
Google's chief legal officer David Drummond states his company 'is not in cahoots' with the NSA. (Credit: Reuters)

Drummond said during a live question and answer session on the Guardian website that there was no US government programme that Google participated in.

In the wake of the Edward Snowden leak of presentation slides describing the NSA's Prism programme and how it is believed to give the US government direct access to the servers of Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Apple and other technology firms, the web giants rushed to deny such a system exists.

"What does happen," Drummond explained in the Q&A session, "is that we get specific requests from the government for user data. We review each of those requests and push back when the request is overly broad or doesn't follow the correct process.

"There is no free-for-all, no direct access, no indirect access, no back door, no drop box."

Drummond's Q&A took place a day after Google called for greater transparency, asking the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to relax its gagging order on technology companies targeted by US security investigations.

Removing this gag would allow Google and others to reveal publicly the number of data requests it receives under the Foreign Intelligence Securities Act (Fisa). Such requests are dealt with in secret through a dedicated Washington DC court.

Drummond said: "We've long pushed for total transparency so users can better understand the extent to which governments request their data, for any reason. We don't question that there are legitimate requests for data - in criminal matters, for example, or a suspected terrorist attack.

"We simply believe there should be more transparency around the breadth of these requests."

When asked if Google was lying to its users, Drummond said his company was not in the business of lying and depended on the trust of its users.

"Lying to the public wouldn't be the greatest career move," he said.

Drummond emphasised: "[Allowing the NSA] unfettered access to user data or that we're handing over data willy-nilly to the government is just not true. It's not rhetoric, it's a fact.

"We don't get everything 100% right 100% of the time. When we mess up, we admit it and we work to correct our mistakes.

"And we're also going to speak up - loudly - when we are falsely accused of something like we have been here."