Google reveals that the FBI has been "extract[ing] data" about the media company's clientele.
The FBI has been using a so-called "national security letter," which allows the federal government to gain access to information without requiring a warrant via the Patriot Act, which was signed into law after 9/11 in 2001.
"The NSLs [National Security Letters] are written demands from the FBI that compel internet service providers, credit companies, financial institutions and businesses like Google to hand over confidential records about their customers, such as subscriber information, phone numbers and e-mail addresses, websites visited and more as long as the FBI says the information is 'relevant' to an investigation," Wired writes.
National Security Letters (NSLs) are issued "hundreds of thousands of times a year," according to Wired, which punctuates the statement with the fact that the FBI has in the past been "reprimanded" for abusing them.
Google released startling numbers that show from 2009 to 2012, the FBI sent "0-999" such security letters every year. The number of Google user accounts the FBI requested looking into ranged from 1,000 to 2,999 per year.
"You'll notice that we're reporting numerical ranges rather than exact numbers," Google Legal Director Richard Salgado wrote on an official Google blog. "This is to address concerns raised by the FBI, Justice Department and other agencies that releasing exact numbers might reveal information about investigations. We plan to update these figures annually."
Google says it did not begin providing data about the percentage of requests it complied with until the July to December 2010 reporting period (hence earlier hash marks on the chart shown).
Though Google makes sure to note that the government does need to follow the proper legal process to gain information requested via "subpoena, court order or search warrant ... [e]xceptions can be made in certain emergency cases, though even then the government can't force Google to disclose."
In addition to the accounts that have been specified through security letters, Google accounts for even higher numbers that represent how many accounts were requested to be looked into via search warrants, subpoenas and "other."
From July to December 2012, there was a total of 8,438 requests for information made by the U.S. government wanting to investigate 14,791 Google users/accounts. The "percentage of requests where some data produced [sic]" was 88.
This percentage number throughout the years from 2010 onward has remained in the 88 to 94 percent range.
Google has stated that it cannot give legal advice if a user is contacted by a government agency requesting information about his or her account.
"We publish this information to shine a light on how government actions can affect our users and the free flow of information online," Google says.
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