Microsoft Joins Google in Asking for Greater FISA Transparency

The companies want to disclose more information about how they comply with government requests for data.

As the controversy surrounding Edward Snowden's revelations about the U.S. government's data collection practices continues, Microsoft is now joining Google to request permission to divulge more details about its involvement in such programs. Normally, companies are prevented from admitting they have provided data in response to Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) rulings.

Politico's Michelle Quinn reported, "Microsoft has joined Google in petitioning the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in an effort to allow the firm to publish more details about national security requests, according to a document released Wednesday. The company asked the court to allow it to break out the number of national security-related government requests from state, local and other federal government requests. The company filed the petition last week; the FISA Court published the motion Wednesday."

PCWorld's Zach Miners explained, "FISA has been thrust into the national spotlight after leaks about the U.S. government's Prism surveillance program, which reportedly provides the National Security Agency with direct access to customer data stored by Microsoft, Facebook, Google and other big technology companies. Currently, online firms can reveal how many FISA requests they receive only if they lump them together with all other requests from U.S. law enforcement agencies. That obscures the number of FISA requests those companies receive, so Microsoft, like Google before it, has asked for permission to break the numbers out."

The Wall Street Journal's Shira Ovide noted, "The companies have pushed back against some of the earliest news reports — based on leaked documents from former government contractor Edward Snowden — that suggested the companies cooperate with automated and widespread siphoning of account information. Microsoft in its court challenge Wednesday said its efforts to fight those perceptions have been hamstrung because federal authorities have imposed limits on how much the company can say about the number and nature of surveillance requests it receives under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act."

CNET's Declan McCullagh added, "The most secretive court in the nation, which has been criticized for authorizing domestic surveillance by the National Security Agency, has taken a tiny step toward openness in lawsuits brought by Google and Microsoft. CNET has learned that Reggie Walton, the presiding judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, told the Obama administration last week that -- barring any objections from the government -- he would take the unusual step of disclosing procedural information about the Internet companies' litigation. The Department of Justice responded yesterday by saying it had no objections."

Tags: Google, Microsoft, government, NSA, priSM, FISA, U.S., transparency

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