Microsoft and Google continue to press US government over transparency

Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel, announced that Google and Microsoft are tired of waiting for the US government to allow them to publish sufficient data relating to Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) orders.

“Each of our companies filed suit in June to address this issue. We believe we have a clear right under the U.S. Constitution to share more information with the public,” he shared on Friday. “On six occasions in recent weeks we agreed with the Department of Justice to extend the Government’s deadline to reply to these lawsuits. We hoped that these discussions would lead to an agreement acceptable to all. While we appreciate the good faith and earnest efforts by the capable Government lawyers with whom we negotiated, we are disappointed that these negotiations ended in failure.”

In the meantime, the US government has announced that it will soon publish the total number of national security requests for customer data they issued for the past 12 months and will continue doing so once every year.

But while the two companies welcome that step, they are not satisfied. “Over the past several weeks Microsoft and Google have pursued these talks in consultation with others across the technology sector,” says Smith. “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.”

“[-¦] we believe it is vital to publish information that clearly shows the number of national security demands for user content, such as the text of an email,” he stated. “These figures should be published in a form that is distinct from the number of demands that capture only metadata such as the subscriber information associated with a particular email address. We believe it’s possible to publish these figures in a manner that avoids putting security at risk. And unless this type of information is made public, any discussion of government practices and service provider obligations will remain incomplete.”


Subscribe to the Help Net Security breaking news e-mail alerts:


Don't miss