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Microsoft and Google band together to sue US government over data requests

Talks did not work
Mon Sep 02 2013, 11:16

TECHNOLOGY GIANTS Microsoft and Google have jointly filed a lawsuit against the US government after talks about information disclosure failed to deliver the relief they are seeking.

The firms asked the government to allow them to say more about when and where snooping eyes come across services and users.

They made their requests in June when all eyes were on Edward Snowden and the PRISM revelations. They were seeking the right to disclose information about user data requests made under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

A number of meetings followed. But Microsoft and Google got no satisfaction from the government.

Brad Smith, Microsoft general counsel and EVP for legal and corporate affairs said, "We hoped that these discussions would lead to an agreement acceptable to all. While we appreciate the good faith and earnest efforts by the capable Government lawyers with whom we negotiated, we are disappointed that these negotiations ended in failure."

"Yesterday, the government announced that it would begin publishing the total number of national security requests for customer data for the past 12 months and do so going forward once a year. The government's decision represents a good start. But the public deserves and the Constitution guarantees more than this first step."

Smith said that any published information should be clear, comprehensive, and secure.

"We believe it's possible to publish these figures in a manner that avoids putting security at risk," he added. " And unless this type of information is made public, any discussion of government practices and service provider obligations will remain incomplete."

Smith said that the discussions have been a "failure" adding that now is the time for a legal approach. He expects that the result of this will be a green light to release more information.

"With the failure of our recent negotiations, we will move forward with litigation in the hope that the courts will uphold our right to speak more freely. And with a growing discussion on Capitol Hill, we hope Congress will continue to press for the right of technology companies to disclose relevant information in an appropriate way," he said.

"The United States has long been admired around the world for its leadership in promoting free speech and open discussion... We believe there remains a path forward that will share more information with the public while protecting national security. Our hope is that the courts and Congress will ensure that our Constitutional safeguards prevail." µ


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