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Microsoft, Others Requesting More NSA Transparency

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.

  • axehead15
    Good step in the right direction!
    Reply
  • happyballz
    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.
    Reply
  • Stalkingvictim
    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...
    Reply
  • stevejnb
    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.
    Reply
  • COLGeek
    This is more marketing hype than anything else. These efforts are not new and will not stop because of what Snowden released (illegally).
    Reply
  • slomo4sho
    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.
    Reply
  • gm0n3y
    @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/
    Reply
  • stevejnb
    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?
    Reply
  • slomo4sho
    11182128 said:
    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:
    They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.
    Reply
  • COLGeek
    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.
    Reply