Microsoft and Google Team to Sue Obama Administration to Release Surveillance Information

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

The Obama administration now faces a lawsuit by Google and Microsoft over gaining legal permission to explain to their customers why they had to cooperate with domestic spying programs carried out by the National Security Agency (NSA).


Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith wrote in a corporate blog post that his company and Google felt compelled to sue the federal government after officials refused to allow them to disclose details about Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requests.


Those requests were used by the NSA to collect large volumes of meta-data from the companies’ networks, including information about customers’ emails and other personal communications.


Microsoft and Google each filed litigation in June citing their rights under the First Amendment to explain their roles in the NSA intel gathering. This move was vital, the companies argued, to refute criticism that they had collaborated in the snooping.


But after getting nowhere with these initial legal maneuvers, the Internet giants decided to join forces.


The plaintiffs have denied accusations that the NSA had “direct access” to their systems. At the same time, however, they were barred by the federal government from disclosing how many times they had been asked to provide information on users.


“We believe we have a clear right under the US constitution to share more information with the public,” Smith wrote. “The purpose of our litigation is to uphold this right so that we can disclose additional data.”


The companies hope their lawsuit will win them the right to publish “aggregate information” about FISA court orders in order to be more transparent with their customers.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Microsoft and Google to Sue over US Surveillance Requests (by Rory Carroll, The Guardian)

Microsoft, Google to Sue over FISA Gag Order (by Seth Rosenblatt, CNET)

Standing Together for Greater Transparency (by Brad Smith, Microsoft on the Issues)

Tech Companies Wrestle with U.S. Government over Disclosure of Data Requests (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman, AllGov)


Leave a comment