Microsoft and Google to sue government over transparency

Microsoft and Google to sue government over transparency

Summary: Negotiations between big tech companies and the government to disclose their cooperation have broken down. Things may change today.


In a blog entry by Microsoft General Counsel & Executive Vice President, Legal & Corporate Affairs Brad Smith, the company explained how negotiations with the government over permission "…to publish sufficient data relating to Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) orders" have faltered. Both Microsoft and Google will proceed with litigation to seek permission from the FISA court.

Ever since the public disclosure of the NSA's surveillance programs by former contractor Edward Snowden, Microsoft, Google and many other companies have called on the government to allow them to disclose the extent of their cooperation so that customers and foreign governments can make informed decisions about the trustworthiness of the companies' services.

Smith says in the blog that both Microsoft and Google filed suit in June for permission to disclose the information, and they believe they have the clear constitutional right to do so. On 6 occasions the government has asked for extensions from the court before replying to the suit.

According to this order from the FISA court, 5PM today (presumably eastern time, as that is the time of the court's seat) is the current deadline for the current extension. Smith says that Microsoft and Google won't agree to any more extensions.

In part because of the secrecy under which it operates, the court has a reputation as a rubber stamp for government requests, although both the court and government dispute this characterization. Finding for Microsoft and Google, not giving the government the benefit of any doubt, could be a way for the court to assert its independence in a public way.

Today may also be a good day for the government to cave on the Microsoft/Google petition. It's standard procedure, when you want to bury news, to release it on a Friday. Releasing it on the Friday before Labor Day buries it that much deeper.

See also:

Topics: Security, Google, Microsoft

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  • Note who ISN'T suing to be more transparent


    Clearly it is not in their best interest to have the details of their participation in the PRISM program made public. And we KNOW for a fact that apple is a willing participant in PRISM thanks to Snowden.

    Microsoft and Google WANT the details published.

    apple doesn't.

    That tells you everything.
    • not necessarily

      Apple knows at least google is certainly going to do something about it, so why spend the time and money on legal fees. Microsoft too - their future is the cloud more so than apple. If everyone stopped using email and the cloud, it wouldn't affect apple's bottom line as much.
      • Apple not affected by the cloud?

        Hardly, especially when you consider the only truly profit generating devices they sell are the IPad and IPhone and to alesser extent the IPod. All three have no local storage available via USB, etc. Each device forces you to use Internet services (theirs and others) simply by design. ITunes and the IStore storage is taunted as the reason why you don;t need a USB or other external port for your data. Just shove it to the cloud. MS and Android devices (the vast majority) offer ports for external storage - physical external storage.
        • USB and card reader

          USB and card readers are available for the iPad - I have them both. They aren't built into the device - but they are apple parts that are available for the usual exorbitant prices...
      • Or maybe....

        Apple's legal team is too busy taking people to court for patent infringement. A recent report stated that Apple takes patent infringers to court more than any other company.
        On top of that, the number of Apple's subscribers [via,, etc.] is tiny compared to Microsoft or Google.
    • Agree

      It is telling.......
    • With your same twisted logic where is IBM, and their ilk? (NT)

      • IBM doesn't sell operating systems.

        Well, they do, but not in any form that a normal consumer can get ahold of.
    • As usual, Microsoft shills turn the article into ugly anti-Apple BS

      The truth is, the lists of requests are meaningless. This legal action by Microsoft and Google is nothing but propaganda. If Microsoft and Google believe they should make the lists public, then just do it. Let FISA sue them.
    • A vote for toddbottom3

      I like toddbottom3's assessment. Even if Apple jumps in, who else doesn't? Good litmus test.
      Dave Walters
    • I dont normally agree with todds views on apple...

      But I agree there is something odd about apple not jumping on board. Could you even imagine such a thing? Apple, Google, and Microsoft all united under a single cause? It would be like if the US, China, and Iran all got together to deal with both Korea. Completely unfathomable.

      My guess is that apple does not want to hurt their legal standing with the Gov while they are dependent on them to judge on all their patent suits.
      • Edit...

        That was supposed to be North Korea... Not both. Will I ever find phone that doesn't butcher text with its autocorrect?
        • RE: Edit

          Somehow I find it highly unlikely that your phone's autotext butchered "North Korea". Might be more honest to admit that you were thinking "North Korea", but forgot to include the "North" part.
  • Gov statement on transparency

    " "

    Transparent enough?
  • Good For Them

    An electorate needs to be informed to hold their government accountable.
    John Cary
  • Of course,

    Our current president has promised that there will be full transparency in all government actions, but that promise was..... well..... you know.
  • Microsoft/Google suing U.S

    I don't know why the need to give lawyers more money. There is no real security concern in the U.S. we welcome attacks all the time.Consider : anyone can "google" every military installation on earth and receive information so detailed a general is apt to say "I didn't know that", major corporations such as multi-trillion-dollar Chase have decided that IT is prudent for file transfer services are best run in India, IBM(American icon) has decided the best security software company is in Israel, NY Times website is hosted in Australia, major corporations purchase SSL certificates from people all over the globe, and the government has no clue what is happening and the sad part is it's too late because the keys to the kingdom have blithely been passed out to the world at large in the name of "global economy".What a sham, Larry there's no point in hiding the new,because your average reader goes "oh well that's the way it is today". Thank you Larry - good job
  • Excellent move

    It's a good time for MSFT take the offensive when it is being asked to go against the law and their own best business interest. The government is asking that they compromise their business interests and break the law. What makes it difficult is that the courts are complicit with the gov't and the public indifferent so the options are limited.
  • Americans should class action this government on privacy

    Since our Constitutional rights have been decimated, I think it only right that if MS and google ( can sue, we might as well sue our government as one.

    This government doesn't represent me - doesn't represent many people - so many that this government is going against the majority in any subject.

    Senate and Congressmen's offices are staffed with arrogant sticks who spout that the "put your leader here" isn't available but they will "relay" the message...knowing full well that your call just went unanswered and unheeded.

    Leaders are those who lead on a daily basis, they are those who care about what their fellow citizens feel because you are their pulse, their heart, their voice... and yet we have little to none who have filled these rolls and how it tears at the heart to see what is coming.

    Grandmothers - you are going to leave some very horrible conditions for your grandchildren and beyond.

    Grandfathers - you haven't mentored your sons and grandsons - and it is showing in our moral lassitude and devastation in cities across the nation.

    Cry for those who are damaged by doctor directed drugs.

    Cry for those who are being raped daily in their own homes.

    Cry for those who sit in classrooms where teachers berate rather than lead by example.

    Cry for the Constitution crumbling beneath our failing gaze - even as the writing fades even with all of the controls and light they should not be allowing to touch it - it is fading and I have to wonder if God meant the writing to last only as long as our nation upheld the concepts that HE gave to those brave men and women who separated from an overbearing government that wasn't allowing its own citizens to have a voice.

    We are they, we are there, and no one really cares - they care more about TV, sports, money, sleeping... but not being involved even in the smallest leadership of their own community.

    MS and google aren't hurt half as much as every single American who trusted this government and HAD to trust the browser to bring us the net in the FIRST place.

    There are some safe alternatives - -

    Protect yourselves - I pray we don't have to sue our own government to get our rights BACK.