Facebook and Microsoft join call to disclose FISA requests

A trio of tech giants has called for the US government to allow for disclosure of total numbers of requests by US security agencies.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

It is now known that the term "transparency report" is a complete misnomer, as Facebook and Microsoft have joined calls for the ability to add requests made under the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to the company's transparency reporting.

"In the past, we have questioned the value of releasing a transparency report that, because of exactly these types of government restrictions on disclosure, is necessarily incomplete, and therefore potentially misleading to users," said Facebook general counsel Ted Ullyot in a statement.

"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."

Reuters is reporting a similar sentiment out of Redmond, Washington, as Microsoft has called for greater transparency on the total number of requests made by security agencies in order for the community to "understand and debate these important issues".

"Our recent report went as far as we legally could, and the government should take action to allow companies to provide additional transparency," Microsoft said in a statement.

The calls by Microsoft and Facebook follow the publishing of a letter sent by Google chief legal officer, David Drummond , to the US attorney general and the FBI.

"Assertions in the press that our compliance with these requests gives the US government unfettered access to our users' data are simply untrue," said Drummond.

"However, government non-disclosure obligations regarding the number of FISA national security requests that Google receives, as well as the number of accounts covered by those requests, fuel that speculation.

"We therefore ask you to help make it possible for Google to publish in our Transparency Report aggregate numbers of national security requests, including FISA disclosures — in terms of both the number we receive and their scope."

Drummond said that Google has nothing to hide, and that greater transparency can serve the public interest without diminishing national security.

Late last week, the same trio of companies said to be involved in the NSA's PRISM program vigorously denied involvement in the scheme, and all three said that the US government does not have direct access to any of the companies' servers.

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