US gov. to publish transparency report, not good enough for Microsoft and Google

Solidarity in the name of government transparency


Announced yesterday by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, the U.S. Federal Government will start disclosing annual transparency reports showing the amount of spying activity performed by the NSA.

Through an official statement from the IC (Intelligence Community) Tumblr (yes, apparently the government now blogs, though thankfully without selfies), Clapper detailed that this will be the first time the government will be releasing such documents to the public.

The information slated for released will include FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) orders, business records and national security letters - and according to the blog, "the total number of orders issued during the prior twelve-month period, and the number of targets affected by these orders."

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How specific the information will be remains to be seen, especially since Clapper seemed to add a little disclaimer saying there is limited discussion of "these activities," and that detailed disclosure can lead to helping "enemies avoid detection."

Microsoft and Google say "Nope, not good enough"

It's not a surprising move by the government to finally throw down the curtains especially after big tech companies have been pushing to prove their innocence.

Brad Smith, Microsoft's executive VP legal counselor, released a statement on the company blog today saying Microsoft would continue to move forward with a lawsuit filed back in June because "the public deserves and the Constitution guarantees more than this first step" - meaning we need more government transparency.

Google also filed to sue the government in June and in a rare moment of solidarity, is mentioned as standing together with Microsoft on this front:

"... we believe it is vital to publish information that clearly shows the number of national security demands for user content, such as the text of an email."

Smith also states that security risks can be avoided when publishing numbers in order to completely give the public a full understanding of government practices and service provider obligations.

It's an interesting sight seeing the companies playing nice to fight the suits for the good of the people. Additionally, it will be interesting to see just how well the government proposed transparency report will affect future surveillance practices.