In a bid for further transparency in the wake of the Prism scandal, Google has called for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to relax its gag order on technology companies targeted in US security investigations.
Google wants to publish details of the number of data requests it receives under the foreign intelligence securities act (Fisa) as a way of easing concern among users following the revelation of widespread monitoring of US citizens through the National Security Agency's Prism programme.
Citing the first amendment's guarantee of free speech, Google filed a petition with the Washington DC-based Fisa court asking for permission to disclose the number of surveillance requests Google receives under Fisa, and the number of user accounts affected. Currently, such requests are dealt with in secrecy by the dedicated court.
Google already publishes information on demands for data from governments worldwide, but these relate to criminal requests used to gather information on suspects, whereas Google and all other tech firms are forbidden from disclosing the number of Fisa requests they receive relating to national security.
The search company said in a statement on 18 June: "Greater transparency is needed, so today we have petitioned the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to allow us to publish aggregate numbers of national security requests, including Fisa disclosures separately."
Google's plea for further transparency comes after it was accused with fellow tech companies Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Yahoo of providing the US government with "direct" access to their servers through the Prism programme, as revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden, who leaked documents to the Guardian detailing how the system works.
Each company has since denied providing user information in such a way, with Apple stating this week that the first it heard of Prism was in media reports following the leak.
In a statement posted to its Google+ page, the search giant continued: "We have long pushed for transparency so users can better understand the extent to which governments request their data - and Google was the first company to release numbers for National Security Letters.
"Lumping national security requests together with criminal requests - as some companies have been permitted to do - would be a backward step for our users."