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Google: We Turned Over Information on a ‘Tiny Fraction’ of Users

Chief legal officer David Drummond defends Google’s response to the government’s national security requests for information.

In his first U.S. television interview since the latest news broke of the government’s surveillance program, Google’s chief legal officer David Drummond told PBS NewsHour senior correspondent Jeffrey Brown on Tuesday that the company has given the U.S. government information on only a “tiny fraction” of its hundreds of millions of users.

The interview airs on Tuesday’s NewsHour broadcast.

The Washington Post reported Thursday that the National Security Agency and FBI were accessing user content and connection logs at nine U.S. Internet companies, including Google and Facebook, in a program that was code-named PRISM.

Google and Facebook have denied the government had “direct access” to their servers.

In his interview with the NewsHour, Drummond insisted that Google “never received anything as broad” a request from the U.S. government as was suggested in earlier published reports.

Drummond told Brown that the reporting on the issue has left the “serious misimpression” that Google is allowing the government unfettered access to its servers and even attaching equipment to extract information.

In reality, he said, Google hands over information in response to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court-ordered requests after its legal team thoroughly reviews them.

On Tuesday, Google sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI Director Robert Mueller asking permission to publish in its transparency reports the number of times it has been requested to hand over information to the government and the scope of its compliance. The company wrote:

“Google’s numbers would clearly show that our compliance with these requests falls far short of the claims being made. Google has nothing to hide.”

When asked if Google ever turns down the requests, Drummond said: “We are willing to push back if something is overly broad.”

Drummond also said Google has complied in the past with requests for data from governments in others countries, but only under the terms of protocols established by international treaties and laws.

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