15 June 2013

Limited Disclosure of FISA Warrants to Internet Firms Approved

Facebook and Microsoft have gotten permission to release total numbers of government requests for data, which both Facebook and Twitter have lambasted as inadequate.

It's clear to me that this permission is intended more to conceal than reveal:
Facebook and Microsoft announced Friday that the U.S. government is allowing them to disclose U.S. national security-related requests they received, but lumped together with other law enforcement requests. Google pushed back against those conditions.

“Since this story was first reported, we’ve been in discussions with U.S. national security authorities urging them to allow more transparency and flexibility around national security-related orders we are required to comply with,” Ted Ullyot, Facebook’s general counsel, wrote in a blog post.

“We’re pleased that as a result of our discussions, we can now include in a transparency report all U.S. national security-related requests (including FISA as well as National Security Letters) — which until now no company has been permitted to do.”

The social-networking company reported that for the six months ending December 31, it had received between 9,000 and 10,000 user data requests from U.S. local, state and federal governments, including national security-related requests, Ullyot said. Between 18,000 and 19,000 Facebook user accounts were affected by the requests, he said.
This is quite literally the least the state security apparatus could approve, something which Google notes:
We have always believed that it’s important to differentiate between different types of government requests,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement. “We already publish criminal requests separately from National Security Letters. Lumping the two categories together would be a step back for users. Our request to the government is clear: to be able to publish aggregate numbers of national security requests, including FISA disclosures, separately.
It's clear that this is an attempt to forestall transparency, and instead create the appearance of transparency, by the intelligence agencies and the Department of Justice.

It's good news, because it's clear that they, and the Obama administration, is in damage control mode, which would indicate that Google and Twitter will eventually be allowed greater disclosure.

At least, that is what I hope.


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