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Prism latest: Google launches legal challenge to US over surveillance gag order

Google has launched a legal challenge in the formerly top-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to remove gagging orders that prevent it from revealing details about government data requests.

The search giant cited the First Amendment, which guarantees the right to free speech, in order to win its case. The court battle marks an escalation in the Prism scandal and how far companies involved are willing to go to try to reassure users.

Google said it does not want to lump national security requests together with criminal requests, as that would be “a backward step for our users,” according to the Washington Post. The company has published a transparency report for several years and it said it does not want “generalities” about data requests.

The legal move follows a letter sent by Google to the FBI and US Attorney General over Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requests. Several other major companies, including Microsoft, Apple, Facebook and most recently Yahoo, have also joined in revealing overall security requests and urging the authorities to let them reveal more.

Google claims that only a handful of data requests it receives relate to FISA. While the legal challenge may prove unsuccessful, it will show users of Google's services that it is doing its best to secure more transparency on this issue - a reassurance it needs to help repair the damage caused by the Prism revelations.