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Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Tech Firms Asks U.S. Government For Transparency On Digital Surveillance


Google , Microsoft, Facebook and Microsoft are among the companies and organizations that call on the U.S. government to provide greater transparency on national security requests.

The companies urged the U.S. government to allow Internet companies to reveal the size and scope of the national security information requests they receive.

Google asked the US government Tuesday for permission to publish information about its compliance with secret national security data requests, saying it has "nothing to hide."

The letter noted that the company's "transparency report" on government requests does not include national security requests under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

"Assertions in the press that our compliance with these requests gives the US government unfettered access to our users' data are simply untrue," Google's chief legal officer David Drummondwrote.

"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."

Drummond said Google would like to include "aggregate numbers of national security requests, including FISA disclosures" and said that the numbers "would clearly show that our compliance with these requests falls far short of the claims being made. Google has nothing to hide."

"Permitting greater transparency on the aggregate volume and scope of national security requests, including FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) orders, would help the community understand and debate these important issues," Microsoft said. "Our recent report went as far as we legally could and the government should take action to allow companies to provide additional transparency".

"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," Facebook said. "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."

Both Microsoft and Google, along with other Internet companies, have come under scrutiny following disclosures in The Guardian and Washington Post newspapers of their roles in a National Security Agency data collection program named Prism.

Seperately, a bipartisan coalition of 86 civil liberties organizations and Internet companies - including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, reddit, Mozilla, FreedomWorks, and the American Civil Liberties Union - are demanding swift action from Congress in light of the recent revelations about unchecked domestic surveillance.

In an open letter to lawmakers sent today, the groups call for a congressional investigatory committee, similar to the Church Committee of the 1970s. The letter also demands legal reforms to rein in domestic spying and demands that public officials responsible for this illegal surveillance are held accountable for their actions.

The letter was accompanied by the launch of StopWatching.us, a global petition calling on Congress to provide a public accounting of the United States' domestic spying capabilites and to bring an end to illegal surveillance.

President Barack Obama and senior U.S. intelligence officials have confirmed the existence of Prism.


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