Saturday, August 31, 2013

Google, Microsoft, Facebook Sue for More NSA Transparency

In a battle of behemoths, a group of the largest Internet companies is moving forward with a law suit against the Obama Administration. Following an outcry by customers, they are suing to release specific information on the data they provided to national security investigators about users.

Finding a balance between security and privacy which is acceptable to all parties has proven frustrating and negotiations between the US Government and the Internet giants have broken down.

According to this report, Microsoft announced they are moving forward with the suit which allows more transparency on the information that has been shared with the National Security Agency. They deny reports that they allowed government access to their servers or provided widespread access to users data and communications.

Faced with secret subpoenas and non-disclosure orders by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), companies have been limited as to what they can disclose publicly about government requests for information or their compliance. The recent leaks regarding corporate co-operation in these investigations has led to wide spread concern among users about how much and what information is being shared with federal investigators.

Microsoft General Council, Brad Smith said, "With the failure of our recent negotiations, we will move forward with litigation in the hope that the courts will uphold our right to speak more freely,”

Colin Stretch, General Council for Facebook stated, “We are deeply disappointed that despite months of negotiations and the efforts of many companies, the government has not yet permitted our industry to release more detailed and granular information about those requests.”

James Clapper, Director for National Intelligence has stated that the US Government will soon release more information on its intelligence gathering practices. Many are skeptical that government will be willing to provide meaningful answers to the public privacy concerns. As Google responded in an emailed statement:
"While the government’s decision to publish aggregate information about certain national security requests is a step in the right direction, we believe there is still too much secrecy around these requests and that more openness is needed. That's why we, along with many others, have called on the U.S. government to allow us to publish specific numbers about both FISA and NSL requests."
As more disclosures show massive and often illegal collection of data by the FISA court and internet companies, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and others are trying to reassure nervous users that they are capable of protecting personal information while still complying with reasonable and specific government requests for information.

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