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Tech Firms Push for Transparency in U.S. Data Requests

Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Facebook want to explain how they comply with surveillance requests.

Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Facebook have asked the U.S. government to let them explain how they comply with requests for user data. Last week, a whistleblower revealed that the NSA has been collecting data from the tech companies' servers through a program known as Prism.

Computerworld's John Ribeiro reported, "Facebook and Microsoft have joined Google in asking for greater transparency in surveillance requests, following widespread criticism of the U.S. government's surveillance programs and the role of the Internet companies. Twitter's General Counsel Alex Macgillivray also wrote in a message Tuesday on the service that Twitter supports efforts for more transparency in NSLs (national security letters) used by the government to collect data."

Politico's Alex Byers and Michelle Quinn added, "[Google] fired off its letter to the office of the attorney general and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The company asked the government to allow it to include more information in reports about how frequently it is asked to give up user data under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). 'Assertions in the press that our compliance with these requests gives the U.S. government unfettered access to our users’ data are simply untrue,' Chief legal officer David Drummond wrote."

Mashable quoted a Facebook statement, which said, "We would welcome the opportunity to provide a transparency report that allows us to share with those who use Facebook around the world a complete picture of the government requests we receive, and how we respond. We urge the United States government to help make that possible by allowing companies to include information about the size and scope of national security requests we receive, and look forward to publishing a report that includes that information."

BBC News noted, "Separately, a coalition of more than 80 rights groups and internet companies have launched a website, StopWatching.Us, which has called on Congress to launch a full investigation. The site is backed by the World Wide Web Foundation, a group founded by Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the Web."




Tags: Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, government, Surveillance, FISA, U.S., transparency


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