US Judge forces Google to hand private data to FBI

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A judge in the United States has ruled that the software giant Google must comply with secret requests by the FBI for their customers data. The ruling by District court judge Susan Illston was particularly suprising given that the very same judge had ruled the FBI’s back door information grabs that lack even the most basic warrant as unconstitutional.

Judge Illston, in her immortal wisdom had apparently revisited the constitutional arguments, and this time chosen to interpret law in a way that most favoured the unfettered interest of the state. The FBI uses the fig leaf of ‘National Security Letters’, or NSL’s as they are known, to serve companies for warrantless requests for information. Back in March, Illston had ruled against the rampant use of such suspect breaches of basic privacy in a case brought by non-profit advocacy group the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Back then, the judge said that the letters violated free speech protections and also ruled against the gagging clauses that accompany the NSL’s which compound the Big Brother approach by not only demanding compliance but silence about the very existence of the demand

"The court concludes that the nondisclosure provision violates the First Amendment … the government is therefore enjoined from issuing NSLs … or from enforcing the nondisclosure provision in this or any other case," Illston wrote in March.

And yet – despite hopes that these could prove painful test cases for those who believe in the overriding influence of the secret state, the latest developments suggest that those forces have once again come out on top.

All it took was the sworn statements of two senior FBI agents about 17 out of the 19 NSL’s at issue in this case for the judge to conclude that they were ‘issued properly’. Are we in the realms of technical details when monumental issues of freedom are brushed aside? Can you properly issue unconstitutional demands?

Last year the FBI sent out more than 16,000 NSLs to companies requesting the private data of more than 7,000 citizens.

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