Correct. Under the provisions of the PATRIOT Act the private corporation does not have a choice. All the government has to do is assert national security concerns.
Incorrect. I wish people would actually look up the law, instead of just assuming.
Yes, the PATRIOT act expanded the applicability of National Security Letters (note that it did not create NSLs, that was the Right to Financial Privacy Act, in 1978), and those allow the government to request certain sorts of information from private companies without prior judicial approval, and with a gag order on the recipient, preventing them from talking about it. However, the law also includes some important limitations. (Not enough, IMO, but the limitations that are there should not be ignored).
The primary limitation is that NSLs may only demand metadata, not content. Metadata is incredibly useful and valuable, of course. In the context of communications between parties, knowing who talks to who and when is often more valuable than knowing exactly what they're saying. In the context of a a smart speaker, I don't see how any metadata could be useful.
Another important limitation is that the recipient of the NSL may challenge the NSL in court. There is some evidence that many of the big tech companies do challenge them, though the evidence is obviously fragmentary, since such proceedings are normally closed and sealed, especially if the challenge is unsuccessful.
Anyone here remember Lavabit?
Indeed I do, and I also recall the details of how that actually went down. Lavabit had nothing to do with NSLs, it was all about ordinary court orders, because the FBI wanted the content of Snowden's communications, not just the metadata. And the reason the judge ended up handing down an extremely far-reaching order (to hand over private keys) was because Lavabit repeatedly and incompetently failed to comply with more selective orders. The "incompetently" part is important. If Lavabit had gotten an attorney and actually argued the earlier orders properly, they may or may not have won (probably not), but would ultimately have just had the selective order enforced. Mostly Lavabit just failed to respond or show up, leading the court and the FBI to decide that they were not acting in good faith, which resulted in the FBI's request for, and the court's approval of, an order to hand over their private keys. Lavabit chose to shut down instead of complying.
Aside from that, anyone remember Quest? The one telco that refused to play patriotic 9/11-ball with the government and just hand everything over. What happened to them?
Apparently you don't remember them very well, because their name was Qwest (note that the past tense is because they were bought out by CenturyLink, not because they ceased to exist).
What happened to them is that because they refused to play ball, they were denied government contracts worth many millions of dollars. The CEO, Joseph Nacchio, also publicly said that the request had come several months before 9/11. He was convicted of insider trading; the charges look legitimate, but not unrelated to the NSA stuff. Nacchio had used false accounting and inflated revenue predictions to pump up Qwest's stock price, believing that he'd be able to cover those inflated predictions with the revenue of the aforementioned government contracts. So his refusal to hand over customer data did directly result in his ultimate conviction, not because the conviction was punitive but because the loss of those contracts exposed the shell game he was already playing -- a shell game which included his early sale of stock while the price was high because he suspected his value inflation would not hold up, even before he was asked to illegally provide customer data. Odds are that his game would have fallen apart even with the lost contracts. It's impossible to say whether he would have been prosecuted in that case, but it seems likely because of the accounting fraud that would have come to light eventually regardless.
All of the telcos should have refused to take the carrot and comply with the illegal requests. That they didn't is a reason to distrust them, but not necessarily a reason to distrust all US corporations, especially those that publicly proclaim that they refuse illegal requests and fight them in court if necessary. Note that falsely making that claim falls afoul of various consumer protection and SEC laws, so it seems very unlikely that they would be foolish enough to do that. Note also that nothing in the PATRIOT Act, nor in the previous legislation that created NSLs gives the government any power to force corporations to lie, only to keep quiet, nor does anything in those laws exempt companies from being prosecuted for lying if they chose to do so.