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Google: Facebook and Microsoft Efforts to Reveal PRISM Requests Not Good Enough

Jun 15, 2013 05:32 PM EDT
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The controversial PRISM program has not only challenged our trust in the government, but has also made Americans rethink the trust they've bestowed upon technology companies, to which we often open our lives and secrets. 

As expected now that the curtain has been lifted, the tech giants implicated in the NSA's secret surveillance program have found themselves engaging in a race to regain users' trust.

An example of this is the lockdown between Google and Facebook, with the two giants deeply committed to a pissing match over which company is the "more transparent."

This is how it is playing out. Yesterday Facebook announced that it had secured from the U.S. Department of Justice and FBI a permission to reveal the requests the company got from the federal agents. And Facebook could include all U.S. national-security related requests, including FISA and national security letters in transparency reports.

As part of this coming clean process, Facebook revealed that in the second half of 2012, it received between 9,000 and 10,000 user-data requests from any and all entities in the U.S. government, which represents a "tiny fraction of one percent" of its 1.1 billion monthly active users worldwide. 

Microsoft followed on the Facebook's footsteps and sued the government as well. The software giant afterward said that "we are still not permitted to confirm whether we have received any FISA orders" but it did say that it received between 6,000 and 7,000 criminal and national security warrants, subpoenas and orders affecting between 31,000 and 32,000 consumer accounts."

Up to here, it seemed like everybody was moving in the same, right direction, until Google came into play and said that these measures aren't enough. The search giant stated that it is important to differentiate between different types of government requests. Subpoenas and search warrants are not the same as FISA requests and lumping all types of data requests together is a "step back" for users.

Essentially, Google is saying that Facebook and Microsoft aren't going far enough. Twitter's legal director Ben Lee tweeted in agreement. This isn't the first time Google has made a push for greater transparency than its fellow tech titans.  Google filed a petition in March 2013 resisting a national security letter (NSL) from the FBI demanding that it offer up private information about its users.

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