Google, Facebook, Yahoo! Take Transparency Fight to Federal Court


Google, Facebook, Yahoo! are fighting back against the U.S government with separate motions filed

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with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court today in a bid to share more details about what and how much information is shared with officials, in the wake of the Edward Snowden leaks.

The super secretive FISA court approves surveillance requests made by the U.S. government. Though each tech company filed a separate motion, the action represents a rare instance of the tech giants coming together united behind a common cause.

In a post on Google’s official blog, Richard Salgado, Director, Law Enforcement & Information Security, and Pablo Chavez, Director, Public Policy and Government Affairs, wrote the following:

“Today we filed an amended petition (PDF) in the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. This petition mirrors the requests made to Congress and the President by our industry and civil liberties groups in a letter (PDF) earlier this year. Namely, that Google be allowed to publish detailed statistics about the types (if any) of national security requests we receive under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, including Section 702. Given the important public policy issues at stake, we have also asked the court to hold its hearing in open rather than behind closed doors. It’s time for more transparency.”

The companies have been engaged in negotiations with the U.S. Department of Justice most of the summer over how much detail can be shared regarding the number and type of requests the government makes of the tech firms.

In today’s filing, Google asks the FISA court to allow the firm to publish, “the total number of compulsory requests under various national security authorities and the total number of users or accounts encompassed within such requests.”

Tech companies claim to be negatively affected by the Snowden leaks.  Various reports, including data produced by the U.S. cloud computing industry, say that companies could lose millions with the revelations that private data is being turned over to the U.S. government, leaving a door open for European competitors to gain a foothold in a market dominated by American firms.

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