A federal judge has ruled that Google must comply with the FBI's warrantless requests for confidential user data, despite the search company's arguments that the secret demands are illegal.

NSLs are controversial because they allow FBI officials to send secret requests to Internet and telecommunications companies requesting "name, address, length of service," and other account information about users as long as it's relevant to a national security investigation. No court approval is required, and disclosing the existence of the FBI's secret requests is not permitted.

While the FBI's authority to levy NSL demands predates the Patriot Act, it was that controversial 2001 law that dramatically expanded NSLs by broadening their use beyond espionage-related investigations. The Patriot Act also authorized FBI officials across the country, instead of only in Washington, D.C., to send NSLs.

In a previously unreported lawsuit in Manhattan, the Justice Department has asked a judge to grant its "petition to enforce" a NSL that the FBI sent to Google for confidential user data. The search company is fighting the request.

"The FBI has the authority to prohibit companies from talking about these requests," Richard Salgado, Google's legal director for law enforcement and information security who's a former Justice Department attorney, said in a blog post. "But we've been trying to find a way to provide more information about the NSLs we get -- particularly as people have voiced concerns about the increase in their use since 9/11."

In March, Google began publishing summary statistics about NSLs it received, making it the first major Internet company to do so.

Judge orders Google to comply with FBI's secret NSL demands | Politics and Law - CNET News