Google, Facebook, Yahoo step up pressure on FISA requests

Medea Benjamin of CodePink demonstrates during a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 31 in Washington.
Medea Benjamin of CodePink demonstrates during a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 31 in Washington.
(Alex Wong / Getty Images)

SAN FRANCISCO -- Technology giants Facebook, Google and Yahoo presented a rare united front in filing separate motions asking to publicly disclose more details about secret national intelligence requests they receive under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

They made the motions Monday in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The companies are seeking permission to reveal the number and nature of the national intelligence requests to address growing public concern and regain the trust of users.

“We believe there is more information that the public deserves to know, and that would help foster an informed debate about whether government security programs adequately balance privacy interests when attempting to keep the public safe,” Facebook’s general counsel Colin Stretch said.


Steps taken so far to allow technology companies to release aggregate data does not address the concerns of users, Google said.

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“It fails to inform them of the true extent of demands placed on Google by the government and in any event, such publication is not a replacement for Google’s right to speak truthfully and the process it receives,” Richard Salgado, Google’s director of law enforcement and information security, and Pablo Chavez, Google’s director of public policy and government affairs, said in a blog post.

Ron Bell, Yahoo’s general counsel, said, “Ultimately withholding such information breeds mistrust and suspicion.”

The motions are part of an orchestrated campaign from dozens of technology companies including Apple and Microsoft to persuade the Obama administration to shed more light on national intelligence requests.

Internet companies have denied they give any direct access to intelligence officials. Tech companies are pressing the Obama administration and congressional leaders to allow them to reveal more details about the requests they receive from intelligence agencies for users’ personal information.

The motions come amid damaging disclosures that the National Security Agency can crack the encryption of online traffic –- email, medical records, online shopping and other Web activities. The disclosures in the Guardian, the New York Times and ProPublica were taken from documents from former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden and raise a fresh batch of concerns about the security of personal information stored online.


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