Google Takes on Rare Fight Against National Security Letters


Google has filed a rare petition to challenge an ultra-secret national security letter issued by the government to obtain private data about one or more of its users.

The extraordinary petition, which was filed under seal in the U.S. District Court of Northern California on March 29, comes just days after a U.S. District Judge in California ruled in a case brought by an unnamed company and the Electronic Frontier Foundation that so-called NSLs that come with a gag order on the recipient are an unconstitutional impingement on free speech.

On March 14, U.S. District Judge Susan Illston ordered the government to stop issuing NSLs and to cease enforcing the gag provision in cases where they have already been issued. Illston, however, stayed her order for 90 days to give the government a chance to appeal her ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The recent Google challenge has also been assigned to Judge Illston.

It’s not known exactly when Google received the NSL or why it decided to fight back against this particular one, though the company was likely emboldened to act by the recent ruling. Bloomberg broke the story about Google’s challenge.

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