MOUNTAIN VIEW (KCBS) — Google petitioned the government on Tuesday for permission to explain to the public exactly how often the company has been asked to provide users’ data for the purpose of national security.

Claiming that it has a First Amendment right to free speech, Google filed a motion with the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, challenging the government’s gag order on its Internet surveillance program.

Google said it should be allowed to disclose the number of data requests that come from secret orders approved by FISA.

Christopher Swift, a professor of national security at Georgetown University, told KCBS that Internet companies are limited in what information they can release to the public.

“The companies are operating under substantial restraints in terms of what the law allows them to disclose and doesn’t allow them to disclose,” he said. “By trying to get some of the numbers out there, they are trying to get ahead of those issues as best they can given those restraints.”

In the last week, other Internet companies, such as Apple and Yahoo, have released total number of requests for users’ data. Those numbers range in the thousands but critics have said that doesn’t give any indication on what kind of requests the government is making.

Google is among nine Internet companies identified earlier this month as complicit in a broad Internet surveillance program known as PRISM, which is run by the National Security Agency. Revelation of the program’s details by a former NSA contractor has sparked a national debate about the privacy of Americans’ communications from government monitoring.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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