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Microsoft, Others Requesting More NSA Transparency

By - Source: Microsoft | B 18 comments

After Microsoft defended itself against last week's NSA allegations, the company has joined an alliance to address President Obama personally.

On Tuesday Brad Smith, Microsoft's general counsel & executive vice president of legal & corporate affairs, said that the company asked the Attorney General of the United States to personally take action to allow Microsoft and other companies to be more transparent regarding how they handle national security requests for customer information. The U.S. constitution guarantees the freedom to share more information to the public, yet the government is essentially using a gag order on these companies.

"Government lawyers have yet to respond to the petition we filed in court on June 19, seeking permission to publish the volume of national security requests we have received," Smith states. "We hope the Attorney General can step in to change this situation. Until that happens, we want to share as much information as we currently can."

"There are significant inaccuracies in the interpretations of leaked government documents reported in the media last week," he added. "We have asked the Government again for permission to discuss the issues raised by these new documents, and our request was denied by government lawyers."

The rest of the lengthy statement responds to last week's report about how Microsoft shares data with the NSA regarding Outlook.com, SkyDrive, Skype calling, and enterprise email and document storage. He also goes on to state that Microsoft only pulls and then provides the specific data mandated by the relevant legal demand. He also said the company only respond to requests for specific accounts and identifiers, and so on. The entire statement can be accessed here.

Meanwhile, the company has joined Apple, Google, Facebook and a number of others in a broad alliance spanning 63 companies, investors, non-profits and trade organizations that are demanding a dramatic increase in transparency regarding U.S. government surveillance efforts. Their letter will be published on Thursday, asking President Obama and congressional leaders to allow Web-based, telephone and Internet providers to reveal additional details about national security-related requests.

AllThingsD has reportedly acquired a copy of the letter which shows that the alliance wants to report on a regular basis the number of government requests for information about their users, the number of individuals, accounts, or devices for which information was requested, and the number of requests that sought communications content, basic subscriber information, and/or other information. The alliance is also asking the government to produce a transparency report of its own providing the same information. That's fair, right?

"We seek permission for the same information to be made available regarding the government’s national security–related authorities," the letter states. "Just as the United States has long been an innovator when it comes to the Internet and products and services that rely upon the Internet, so too should it be an innovator when it comes to creating mechanisms to ensure that government is transparent, accountable, and respectful of civil liberties and human rights."

Also included in the alliance is Yahoo, LinkedIn, Mozilla, Tumblr, Twitter, Dropbox, Reddit and many, many others.

What a mess.

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  • 5 Hide
    axehead15 , July 18, 2013 7:12 AM
    Good step in the right direction!
  • 1 Hide
    happyballz , July 18, 2013 7:40 AM
    Oh yeah...jump on the "government transparency" bandwagon. Before Snowden, Microsoft was willingly complying with ANY request DHS/NSA was asking for; they did not even tried once to battle them for proper Judge authorized order (like constitution requires). They were willingly collaborating with these creepy agencies and not once though of anyone or our liberties.

    Don't get me wrong...I more or less loved Microsoft up to Windows 7 release. Everything that has been going in the company after that is just a downhill roll in my opinion. I do not support this "new" Microsoft and their shit policies.

    Typical damage control to try and score points with people that don't know the truth about their sleazy past.
  • 1 Hide
    Stalkingvictim , July 18, 2013 8:46 AM
    I hope someone can dissect the hardware and software to show how the NSA uses everyday electronics to torture stalking victims by overriding audio whenever the drones or other surveillance show the victim to be all alone . Someone comes in range, and the override ability shuts off so that never one person witnesses it besides the targeted victim. Proof would be nice...
  • -3 Hide
    stevejnb , July 18, 2013 9:03 AM
    9/11 happened and everyone was worried and clamouring for security, so the Patriot Act and other things like it went on record, and anyone who wanted to look into it could see what powers these acts gave. People seemed OK with that because, you know, security.

    Flash forward a bit over ten years... The Boston Bombing happens and I read comments on news articles on the subject of "ONE LIFE IS TOO MANY!" and see tearjerker headlines about victims of the bombing, and see people outraged that those who are supposed to defend us let this happen.

    Forward a few months later... Snowden comes out with his stories of the NSA and what they do, and in spite of claims that the NSA's activities have stopped over 50 potential terrorist attacks in the past ten years ( http://livewire.talkingpointsmemo.com/entry/nsa-chief-secret-programs-have-helped-stop-potential ) people are outraged that their privacy is being even potentially infringed to stop something like this. Similarly, people were outraged about drones being used to gather information over American soil while expressing shockingly little outrage over American drones killing dozens of innocents in places over the ocean.

    Where I live, they a phone company is trying to put a cel phone tower somewhere in the city to help deal with the large number of people who have smartphones these days. There are significant protests going up all around the neighbourhood I live in, trying to make damned sure that the cel phone tower does not end upanywhere near my neighbourhood. In fact, just the other day I saw a picture of one such protest - to raise awareness - on Facebook, taken from a phone camera... Everybody wants cel-phone service, as long as the tower is in someone else's back yard and they still get the benefit from it. Go figure, I wonder how many of them complain when they get spotty cel phone service, and think that "someone should do something about this - I pay good money!" etc etc.

    I guess what I wonder is, how many of you who now protest these invasions of your privacy and blame the government for their transgressions will be out there waving flags and demanding "How could this happen?" the next time someone blows up some apple pie eating Americans on American soil? So far, Americans are coming off as a bunch of fickle hypocrites over the whole thing, demanding impeccable cel-phone service while being outraged at the prospect of having the cel phone tower be in their neighbourhood, if you get my drift.
  • 1 Hide
    COLGeek , July 18, 2013 9:23 AM
    This is more marketing hype than anything else. These efforts are not new and will not stop because of what Snowden released (illegally).
  • 6 Hide
    slomo4sho , July 18, 2013 9:30 AM
    United States of America: You have the "freedom" to be spied on, lied to, and to be robbed of your wealth.

    This country is becoming more of a nanny state than then old Soviet Union.

    You end up with a government of the corporations, by the corporations, and for the corporations when the elections are funded by corporations, special interest groups, and public employee unions.
  • -3 Hide
    gm0n3y , July 18, 2013 10:18 AM
    @stevejnb

    Good post. I completely agree with you. People need to realize that there are tradeoffs in many aspects of life. Do you want more security or more privacy? Personally, I'm willing to allow more successful terrorist attacks in the name of more privacy (I live in the core of a major city BTW). What is the point in protecting ourselves if it means that we have to give up our freedom? People need to put the effects of terrorism in perspective: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/06/the-irrationality-of-giving-up-this-much-liberty-to-fight-terror/276695/
  • -3 Hide
    stevejnb , July 18, 2013 10:35 AM
    GM, I appreciate that you didn't read my post as justifying what the NSA is doing. Personally, I'm a bit torn on the issue, and my main target with that post is people who on the one hand demand security and on the other hand want to tie the hands of the organizations trying to give security because people don't want their privacy invaded. Simply put, by locking up private communications from scrutiny, you create an easy avenue by which things like 9/11 and the Boston Bombing can be planned.

    Now, the big problem is with the stance of "I'm willing to give up some security to keep my private affairs private" is, what happens when the terrorist attack isn't just a bomb, but a nuclear bomb or formidable biological agent that doesn't kill 60, but 60,000? At this point it's all hypotheticals but not inconceivable. Will we change our tune when an attack hits the US that is of another magnitude to the ones we have already experienced?
  • 6 Hide
    slomo4sho , July 18, 2013 10:49 AM
    Quote:

    in spite of claims that the NSA's activities have stopped over 50 potential terrorist attacks in the past ten years ( http://livewire.talkingpointsmemo.com/entry/nsa-chief-secret-programs-have-helped-stop-potential )


    They are just that... claims.

    A sheep that is ignorant of its invertible slaughter may feel secure from wolves but is oblivious of the greater threat that the shepherd poses. The masses are sheep and the orchestrated illusion of fear will continue sway their decisions.

    Ben Franklin said it best:
    Quote:
    They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.
  • -2 Hide
    COLGeek , July 18, 2013 11:09 AM
    In a modern world, where bad people plan and commit crimes with modern tools, you must have modern means to fight back.

    Ben Franklin (nor any of the founders of the US) could not have envisioned such a world, so quoting him (while it is a good quote) really isn't relevant to the challenges we face today.
  • -2 Hide
    stevejnb , July 18, 2013 11:40 AM
    Quote:
    Quote:

    in spite of claims that the NSA's activities have stopped over 50 potential terrorist attacks in the past ten years ( http://livewire.talkingpointsmemo.com/entry/nsa-chief-secret-programs-have-helped-stop-potential )


    They are just that... claims.

    A sheep that is ignorant of its invertible slaughter may feel secure from wolves but is oblivious of the greater threat that the shepherd poses. The masses are sheep and the orchestrated illusion of fear will continue sway their decisions.

    Ben Franklin said it best:
    Quote:
    They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.


    Ah, I was waiting for that sorely overused quote to come up. Things to consider about Franklin... He was a smart man. A smart politically oriented man who was well versed in the philosophy of the time, and knew well the theory of what constituted liberty. Unlike most of the people quoting him he was not ignorant of a much maligned English philosopher named Thomas Hobbes who did a lot of cutting through the crap in the area of theory on freedom.

    A summary of what Hobbes said that was on consequence on this matter is this... That the formation of the social contract and the government that enforces it is by definition, by its very core nature, a willing divestment of freedom in favor of security. Simply put, when man left the state of nature, favouring a live in a governed society,what he did was give up a life with no rules telling him not to do things and no accountability for what he did, and trade it for a life of rules (limitations), enforcement, and a threat of violence from a greater power (the government, or Hobbes' Leviathan) in order to get security from the stark reality of truly being free. That reality? When men are really free without limitation, enforcement,and the threat of clviolence, life is "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish,and short.". In short, the formation of the state is at its very core a giving up of freedom for security.

    Now, Franklin knew this, and still said what he did. Why? Back to the beginning, he was a very smart, very politically oriented man. His first interest was NOT freedom, because what he proposed was a ontinuation of the original fall from grace, the initial loss of freedom that was the trade of the liberty of the state of nature for the secure and selective oppression of civil continuation. On the contrary,Franklin was a broker of a particular kind of security, a particular security oriented structure, all in trade for freedom mankind happily gave up for security in times immemorial.

    Why did he say what he did? Not because he was not aware of this, but because he himself was a shepherd, a politically oriented man with a penchant for social engineering and a political product to sell. He knew this and I suspect you do not - because it seems you are still happily following the crook of that long dead shepherd.

    The reality? Mankind's history is a long one of giving up freedom to get security, and the American experiment is just another transfiguration of what freedoms are given up for what securities. To pretend like anyone in America is truly free or ever was so is ludicrous - your country, along with every other one, is built upon a fundamental model of trading freedom for security. Franklin's statement? About as meaningful as terms like "thewar on terror" and "yes we can" - political slogans spoken by political individuals for political ends. Franklin's was a great one because the sheep still bleat it long after his death, missing the fundamental irony of it being spoken by an architect of state.

    As for the NSA and their claims, you're right, they could all be lies. But we know a few things... One, people DO want to hurt Americans. Two, to do the US, they must plan and communicate. With these two facts in.mind, doesn't it make sense that monitoring communication is one of the best ways to track the people wanting to hurt America? And isn't it at least possible that the NSA ain't blowing smoke, and they might well have stopped some bad people by catching them planning?

    oh, and, this is written from a phone. Please forgive the frequent, I'm sure, errors
  • 3 Hide
    smeezekitty , July 18, 2013 11:42 AM
    Quote:

    GM, I appreciate that you didn't read my post as justifying what the NSA is doing. Personally, I'm a bit torn on the issue, and my main target with that post is people who on the one hand demand security and on the other hand want to tie the hands of the organizations trying to give security because people don't want their privacy invaded. Simply put, by locking up private communications from scrutiny, you create an easy avenue by which things like 9/11 and the Boston Bombing can be planned.

    Now, the big problem is with the stance of "I'm willing to give up some security to keep my private affairs private" is, what happens when the terrorist attack isn't just a bomb, but a nuclear bomb or formidable biological agent that doesn't kill 60, but 60,000? At this point it's all hypotheticals but not inconceivable. Will we change our tune when an attack hits the US that is of another magnitude to the ones we have already experienced?

    I agree. But the problem is these illegal tactics are no doubt not very effective.
  • 4 Hide
    slomo4sho , July 18, 2013 11:49 AM
    Quote:
    In a modern world, where bad people plan and commit crimes with modern tools, you must have modern means to fight back.


    So it is wiser to forfeit liberty?

    In a modern world it is possible to keep track of the whereabouts of all possible reagents that can be used to create a device that would be able to yield any meaningful amount of collateral damage. But apparently for you it is better to keep track of every possible individual instead of just keeping track of the tools that can do the harm...

    Also, how many American lives have been lost at the hands of terrorism? How about self-instigated wars? Is the life of an innocent bi-standard of greater value than that of an individual who elected to serve their country and was recklessly funneled into a war propagated by the self-interested of your elected officials and their big money campaign backers? Lastly, when was the last time anyone tried to analyze the motives behind an act of terror? People don't just get up one morning and decide to kill randomly... there is always a motivation for such thoughts to arise and the acts that follow.
  • -4 Hide
    COLGeek , July 18, 2013 12:15 PM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    In a modern world, where bad people plan and commit crimes with modern tools, you must have modern means to fight back.


    So it is wiser to forfeit liberty?

    In a modern world it is possible to keep track of the whereabouts of all possible reagents that can be used to create a device that would be able to yield any meaningful amount of collateral damage. But apparently for you it is better to keep track of every possible individual instead of just keeping track of the tools that can do the harm...

    Also, how many American lives have been lost at the hands of terrorism? How about self-instigated wars? Is the life of an innocent bi-standard of greater value than that of an individual who elected to serve their country and was recklessly funneled into a war propagated by the self-interested of your elected officials and their big money campaign backers? Lastly, when was the last time anyone tried to analyze the motives behind an act of terror? People don't just get up one morning and decide to kill randomly... there is always a motivation for such thoughts to arise and the acts that follow.

    Exactly what liberties do you consider to have been forfeited?

    No offense intended (nor trolling), but you do realize that Google, Yahoo, etc tracks more personal info on you than the NSA programs. Right?
  • 0 Hide
    falchard , July 18, 2013 12:54 PM
    Microsoft can always kick 'em by requesting a warrant. They have the legal team to take it to the supreme court and ultimately get the Patriot Act deemed unconstitutional.
  • 2 Hide
    slomo4sho , July 18, 2013 1:18 PM
    Quote:
    Ah, I was waiting for that sorely overused quote to come up. Things to consider about Franklin... He was a smart man. A smart politically oriented man who was well versed in the philosophy of the time, and knew well the theory of what constituted liberty. Unlike most of the people quoting him he was not ignorant of a much maligned English philosopher named Thomas Hobbes who did a lot of cutting through the crap in the area of theory on freedom.


    It is amazing how this quote was the primary focus of your response. I wasn't expecting any less when I posted it. Bringing a proponent of absolute monarchy into this discussion doesn't bring anything new to the discussion. The social contract theory illustrated in the Leviathan wasn't the first work of its kind. When the social contract was discussed in Crito and the Republic by Plato, the inevitable conclusion was also in favor of a government ruled by a "Philosopher King" due to the masses being unable to make rational decisions for the long term and their focus on the current state of existence leads to the decline of any established democracy.

    If we wish to speak in absolutes and dismiss qualifiers such as "essential" then we can also suggest, as Jean-Jacques Rousseau once did, that “Man was born free, and he is everywhere in chains.” and that freedom is just an idea that has no true relevance in society. We could also go further and incorporate some of the thinking from the freewill and determinism debate to further isolate ourselves from the original context of the quote. One could argue that if behaviors of individuals within a society are predetermined based on external stimuli and preexisting biological cues, the ideas of freedom and liberty are illusions at best as the inability to choose relinquishes an individuals ability to act on their own volition. Although William James argued that the belief in freewill provides a more optimistic worldview, would the realization that the universe was predetermined necessarily alter the optimism of an individual?

    Quote:
    Why did he say what he did? Not because he was not aware of this, but because he himself was a shepherd, a politically oriented man with a penchant for social engineering and a political product to sell. He knew this and I suspect you do not - because it seems you are still happily following the crook of that long dead shepherd.


    So you have intricate knowledge of my beliefs and intrinsic motivators as well as those of a man resting in his grave for centuries? You know what they say about assumptions... I use the quote because it was fitting for the point that I was illustrating (which you disregarded) but decided to expand upon with your Hobbes excerpt.

    Quote:
    No offense intended (nor trolling), but you do realize that Google, Yahoo, etc tracks more personal info on you than the NSA programs. Right?


    You do realize that you can disable scripts and opt out of using such sites/programs?
  • 5 Hide
    daekar , July 18, 2013 3:12 PM
    How is it that so many people overlook the fact that, whether or not the tactics are effective or necessary, they are ILLEGAL. If you give any organization, corporate or government, the ability to ignore the law when they feel like it, then you have opened Pandora's box. If they're free to ignore one law, what's another? What if they decide that for your own safety you have to check-in with a DHS agent every 24 hours? How about freedom of speech limitations for your own protection?

    Anyone who looked at the Patriot Act when it was first proposed and didn't feel a sense of outrage has no idea what it means to be American. Even the crazy Europeans (no offense intended, I'm a big fan of your cultural achievements) think we're off our rockers for putting up with what we do over here.

    IF the actions of the NSA and other agencies are necessary, then the Constitution must simply be amended to remove the right to privacy, any everything can be carried on legally and above board. If it's NOT necessary, or if people don't want to give up their right to privacy, then it's illegal and should be stopped. Simple as that. You can't have it both ways without. creating a monster.
  • 3 Hide
    alextheblue , July 18, 2013 9:29 PM
    Quote:
    I guess what I wonder is, how many of you who now protest these invasions of your privacy and blame the government for their transgressions will be out there waving flags and demanding "How could this happen?" the next time someone blows up some apple pie eating Americans on American soil? So far, Americans are coming off as a bunch of fickle hypocrites over the whole thing, demanding impeccable cel-phone service while being outraged at the prospect of having the cel phone tower be in their neighbourhood, if you get my drift.
    First of all, you're quite arrogant. I don't presume to know everything about the internal affairs of other countries, but you have no qualms acting like you know the whole truth when it comes to internal affairs in America.

    These spy programs did nothing to stop the Boston bombing. Traditional legwork and paying better attention (to dangerous people) would have been more effective. In particular, the Russians warned us about these clowns, and the FBI paid little heed. When they went back home and spent a bunch of time at a Jihad training camp and returned to our shores, we didn't follow up properly.