In the recent past, FBI has devised National Security Letter (NSL), a document that allows the agency to force tech companies into divulging protected data. Google had lodged a request against 19 of such letters it received, but a federal judge has now ruled that the company should comply with these letters.
NSLs have been severely criticized in the past, especially because FBI doesn’t need a court’s prior permission to issue them. Therefore, the agency has been using them into forcing a number of companies into revealing the protected data of their customers, even when FBI doesn’t have sound reason to have this data.
Google has also been receiving these letters and the company had filed a request with a federal court, requesting that it shouldn’t be made to comply with the requests made in these letters. However, FBI was able to win the case in a closed hearing.
The judge has ruled that Google should respond positively to the letters, although she also said that Google can lodge further requests, citing specific parts of the issued letters which, the company thinks, are not fair. Sadly, this instance certainly shows that the courts are inclined to let the FBI run an illegal and unconstitutional show, coercing companies into revealing the data of common users, thus violating their privacy.
However, a number of rights organizations are trying to launch a legal battle against FBI, and the government, over the issuance of such letters. Comparing NSLs with an Orwellian nightmare, most tech companies are strongly opposed to them.