You can now read 5 articles in a month for free on BostonGlobe.com. Read as much as you want anywhere and anytime for just 99¢.

editorial

Google fights for transparency: Shifting the Prism

Continue reading below

It’s strange days indeed when Google, which has long attracted criticism for the opaque ways in which it handles user information, strikes a blow for greater transparency. This week the tech giant asked the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to rescind a gag order barring the company from revealing requests for information by government agencies. As of now, Google can’t legally confirm or deny that it has received any requests for information from that secret court. The company maintains it has a First Amendment right to publish not only the exact number of requests it received from the court, but also the number of accounts included in these requests. This is a gutsy and laudable move.

Currently, Google can publish at least the number of national security letters — requests for large bundles of information made by the FBI, often at the behest of other agencies — that it receives, in a range from zero to 999. Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo, and other tech companies involved in the government’s controversial Prism program came to an agreement with security officials allowing them to publish the total number of information requests they received from all government agencies combined. That’s marginally more information than Google can publish, but they can’t specify which agencies these requests came from. They can’t differentiate between information sought by local law enforcement and requests from US intelligence.

Now that Prism has become public knowledge, one could argue that new revelations by Google about the scope of government requests won’t actually tell the public much more than it already knows. Cynics might say the company mainly wants to defend itself from claims that intelligence agencies had full access to its servers. But Google’s willingness to fight for its right to share uncomfortable truths with customers shows a refreshing commitment to openness. Within the bounds of the law, users have a right to know where their information is going. It’s high time someone stood for that principle.

Loading comments...
Subscriber Log In

You have reached the limit of 5 free articles in a month

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Already a subscriber?
Your city. Your stories. Your Globe.
Yours FREE for two weeks.
Enjoy free unlimited access to Globe.com for the next two weeks.
Limited time only - No credit card required!
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.
Thanks & Welcome to Globe.com
You now have unlimited access for the next two weeks.
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.