Transcript: Google Attorney Richard Salgado’s testimony on the Surveillance Transparency Act – Nov. 13, 2013

Partial transcript of testimony of Richard Salgado, Director of Law Enforcement and Information Security Matters at Google, on the Surveillance Transparency Act of 2013. The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law hearing was held on Nov. 13, 2013:

…I thank you for the opportunity to appear before you this morning to talk about the Surveillance Transparency Act of 2013.

My name is Richard Salgado. I am the Director for Law Enforcement and Information Security at Google. In that capacity, I oversee the company’s response to government requests for user information under various authorities. I’m also responsible for working with teams across Google to protect the security of our networks and our user data.

Mr. Chairman, we commend you for introducing the Surveillance Transparency Act of 2013. Simply stated, we believe that service providers should be able to disclose basic statistics about national security demands that we may receive.

The revelations about the U.S. government’s and other governments’ surveillance practices over the past few months have sparked a serious debate about the laws governing surveillance of private communications by the intelligence community.

Google recognizes the very real threats that the U.S. and other countries face today, and of course governments have a duty to protect their citizens.

But the current lack of transparency about the nature of government surveillance in democratic countries undermines the freedom and the trust most citizens cherish.

It also has a negative impact on our economic growth and security and on the promise of the Internet as a platform for openness and free expression.

In the wake of the press reports about the so-called PRISM program, governments around the world have been considering proposals that would limit the free flow of information. This could have severe unintended consequences, such as a reduction in data security, increased costs, decreased competitiveness, and harms to consumers.

Proposals like data localization pose a significant threat to the free and open Internet. If they’re adopted, then what we will face is the effective creation of a split Internet broken up into smaller national, regional pieces with barriers around it to replace the global Internet that we know today.

Enacting the Surveillance Transparency Act would allow the U.S. to take the first step towards rebuilding the trust that is necessary.

Transparency and national security are not mutually exclusive. Since 2010, we’ve published a transparency report where we share information about the law enforcement requests for user data we’ve received from governments around the world.

Earlier this year, after some discussions with the Department of Justice, we began to provide more information about the volume and scope of national security letters that we’ve received although in broad ranges. There’s been no intimation from the Department of Justice that publishing statistics concerning NSLs [national security letters] has damaged national security.

We approached the DOJ about expanding our recording to include aggregated statistics about FISA requests that we may receive; we were disappointed that the Justice Department refused. In June, we filed a motion for declaratory judgment before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court asserting a First Amendment right to publish this type of information.

The DOJ repeated that it would allow companies to add the number of domestic law enforcement and national security requests together and report this sum as falling within some broad range. But this would be a significant step backwards for Google’s users and the broader public. Rather than promote transparency this proposal would actually obscure important information about the volume and type of all government demands that Google may receive, not just national security demands.

As I mentioned, Google already discloses aggregate statistics about domestic law enforcement demands and have done so since 2010. Publishing future reports where we can only release this type of information in ranges rather than actual numbers and type would provide less transparency than we have now. In addition, there would be no discernible benefit for transparency around national security demands that we may receive. Indeed, Google would continue to be prohibited from even acknowledging their receipt which would only invite continued speculation about the import of the range that we are able to report. We would also lose the benefit of providing information specifically about national security letters that we currently enjoy.

In short, the DOJ proposal would not provide the type of transparency that is reflected in the Transparency Surveillance Act of 2013.

Transparency is critical in informing the public debate on these issues but it’s only one step among many that are needed.

Two weeks ago, Google, along with AOL, Apple, Facebook, LinkedIn, Microsoft and Yahoo, voiced support for broader FISA reform that would include substantial enhancements to privacy protections and appropriate oversight and accountability mechanisms. We strongly believe that governments throughout the world must revisit laws and practices governing state surveillance of individuals and access to private communications. This activity must be rule-bound, narrowly tailored, transparent, and subject to oversight.

We look forward to working with the Congress on the Surveillance Transparency Act of 2013 and other reform measures. Thank you for your time and consideration.


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