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Facebook, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft Fight for Data Transparency

Yahoo, Microsoft, Google and Facebook addressed similar petitions to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on Monday asking FISC for permission to reveal more about US government requests they receive.

The four Internet service companies would like to share with the public “aggregate information” about the requests they receive from the FISC. Their motions argue that public release would in no way harm legitimate government interests. “We filed the suit today because we are not authorized at present to break out the number of requests, if any, that we receive for user data under specific national security statues,” Yahoo general counsel Ron Bell said in a blog post.

“Transparency is a core value at Google and the company is committed to informing its users and the public about requests it receives from government agencies around the world for the production of users’ information and/or communications.” reads the amended motion filed by Google.

Invoking the First Amendment free speech rights, Facebook’s petition asks permission to publish the following categories of surveillance that the intelligence community has demanded: FISA orders based on probable cause, FISA Business records, FISA Pen Register/Trap and Trace orders, numbers of user accounts from the FISA orders or the number of requests that called for content of communications.

Microsoft, Facebook, Google and Yahoo want to change the perception that the big companies allow the government to directly access their servers to spy on their customers.

“Microsoft has sought — and continues to seek — to correct the misimpression, furthered by such inaccurate media reporting, that it provides the U.S. government with direct access to its servers and network infrastructure and, thereby, indiscriminately discloses Microsoft users’ information to the government,” Microsoft’s attorneys wrote in the motion filed with the FISC.

About the author


A blend of teacher and technical journalist with a pinch of e-threat analysis, Loredana Botezatu writes mostly about malware and spam. She believes that most errors happen between the keyboard and the chair. Loredana has been writing about the IT world and e-security for well over five years and has made a personal goal out of educating computer users about the ins and outs of the cybercrime ecosystem.

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