World

US tech giants call for tranparency on security requests

PTI Washington | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on June 12, 2013

Top American tech giants — Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter — have urged the Obama Administration to make its national security information more “transparent”.

The request, first made by Google and quickly followed by Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter yesterday, comes in the wake of leak of classified information about secretive governmental programs on tapping of phone records of millions of American nationals and email and internet of foreign nationals.

“Assertions in the press that our compliance with these requests gives the US Government unfettered access to our users’ data are simply untrue. However, Government nondisclosure 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,” David Drummond, Chief Legal Officer of Google, said in a letter to the US Attorney General, Eric Holder and the FBI Director, Robert Mueller.

“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. 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,” the top Google official said.

Google said it has worked tremendously hard over the past fifteen years to earn its users’ trust. “For example, we offer encryption across our services; we have hired some of the best security engineers in the world; and we have consistently pushed back on overly broad Government requests for our users’ data,” it said.

“We have always made clear that we comply with valid legal requests. And last week, the Director of National Intelligence acknowledged that service providers have received Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requests,” Drummond wrote.

Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter soon came out in support of Google. “Permitting greater transparency on the aggregate volume and scope of national security requests, including FISA orders, would help the community understand and debate these important issues,” a Microsoft spokesman said.

“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 our users,” Facebook general counsel Ted Ullyot said 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,” Ullyot said.

Published on June 12, 2013
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