The US Department of Justice is opposing requests from technology companies to disclose demands it receives for user information – including from US spy agencies – according to secret surveillance court papers released on Wednesday.
Although surveillance agencies have made promises of
transparency, the US government is still rejecting requests to
provide more thorough details on the data requests. The federal
government and tech giants such as Google Inc. have been
embroiled in negotiations for months over requests to provide the
The court papers were filed in the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA Court), traditionally used to exercise restraint over intelligence abuses.
“The companies assert that the information they seek to
disclose is not classified, disregarding the harms to national
security the proposed disclosures would likely cause,” reads
“The companies’ narrow focus on individual targets ignores
that the disclosures would risk revealing the Government’s
collection capabilities as they presently exist and as they
develop in the future,” the argument continues.
Among the companies included were also the Microsoft Corporation, Yahoo!Inc., Facebook Inc., and LinkedIn Corporation.
Tech companies have been battling for greater transparency
“given the important public policy issues at stake,”
according to Google’s director of law enforcement and information
security, Richard Salgado, and the director of public policy and
government affairs, Pablo Chavez, who wrote about the necessity
in a blog post last month. Yahoo and Facebook made similar
petitions to release FISA information.
The internet giants themselves have not been blameless in
spy-schemes. It was revealed in documents published in June by
former NSA contractor, Edward Snowden, that for seven years the
US National Security Agency (NSA) has been using a warrantless
web surveillance system named PRISM.
It has a near-limitless ability to spy on anyone’s phone calls, e-mails, video chats, search history and more, with such major Internet giants as Google, Apple and Facebook being complicit in the scheme.
As a result, the revelations have prompted the companies to seek the ability to make further revelations about how many of their users are involved in surveillance demands, and the total number of mandatory requests for data under specific laws.
They have been arguing that public debate over government
surveillance justifies further disclosure of information, citing
a First Amendment right. Prohibitions on company disclosures are
considered too broad-based and the publication of FISA
information would demonstrate this.