News Column

Microsoft, Google to Sue Gov't Over Surveillance Data

Sept. 1, 2013
Microsoft, Google, to sue, goverment

U.S. technology giant Microsoft Corp. said it will join with Google Inc. to sue the federal government over the right to publish surveillance data.

After months of stonewalling the companies on the issue of how much data they could release on government surveillance requests, the Obama administration said Friday it would release its own annual reports on surveillance requests it makes to the Internet companies, Wired reported.

The companies said the data the government plans to release do not go into enough detail and only allow for broad descriptions of the requests the government makes.

"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," Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith said in an online posting.

"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," Smith wrote.

"We both remain concerned with the Government's continued unwillingness to permit us to publish sufficient data relating to Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act orders," Smith wrote, referring to Google, which will join in the legal effort pressing the government to allow the companies to release more data.

"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 ... speculation [that Google has something to hide]," Google's Chief Legal Officer David Drummond wrote in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI.

"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 wrote.

"Google's numbers would clearly show that our compliance with these requests falls far short of the claims being made. Google has nothing to hide," Drummond wrote.




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