Google & Microsoft Going after the Government for Transparency

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On Friday, Microsoft’s General Counsel & Executive Vice President, Legal & Corporate Affairs, Brad Smith wrote a blog post on the company’s blog explaining how negotiations with the government over permission “…to publish sufficient data relating to Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) orders” have faltered. Both Microsoft and Google will continue with litigation to seek permission from the FISA court. Since this whole “NSA is watching you” thing, Google, Microsoft and a few other companies have been calling on the government to allow them to disclose the extent to which their cooperation is with the government. So that their customers can make decisions about how trustworthiness each company is.

In the post, Smith says that Microsoft and Google have filed suit in June for permission to disclose the information, and they believe they have the clear constitutional right to do so. There have been 6 different occasions where the government has asked for extensions from the court before replying to the suit.

The order from the FISA court shows that 5PM today is the current deadline for the current extension. Smith says that Microsoft and Google won’t agree to any other extensions. In part, because of the secrecy  under which they operate, the court has a reputation as a rubber stamp for government requests, although both the court and government dispute this characterization.

Additionally, today could be a good day for the government to cave on the Microsoft/Google petition. It’s standard procedure, that when you want to bury news, release it on a Friday. Releasing it on a Friday before Labor day is even better.

So it looks like the government is looking to bury this news. Which seems about right. They don’t want this suit with Google and Microsoft in the light of the press. As part of the press, we know that just about nothing breaks on Friday, and the Friday before Labor day is no exception. In fact, there’s even less news. So we’ll keep an eye out for this one and see what happens.