Three of the world’s largest tech giants have today made formal requests to the US government to ask that they be allowed to publicly disclose the secretive data requests made under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. (FISA) As it stands, the three companies, Google, Facebook and Microsoft, are not even allowed to admit that the requests are being made by the US government which is now having a huge negative effect on their reputation for customer privacy, given the current NSA revelations.
All three of these companies have been accused over the past several days, of colluding with the NSA in granting back-door access to their servers under the now notorious PRISM program run by the US government. Word broke of these companies granting access to private customer information, after the Guardian newspaper released more details of the NSA’s PRISM program last week. The accusations have been denied strongly by all three companies, so having the US grant them permission to disclose the highly secretive FISC data requests and include them in their transparency reports (something Google has been doing for a while now) would act a some form of damage control with regards their users trust.
It has now also been revealed that the Guardian’s whistleblower in this huge NSA nightmare was 29-year-old Edward Snowden, who had until recently worked for Booz Allen Hamilton. Below you can watch Edward disclose in his own words, what made him decide to stand up for what he believed in and disclose information about the PRISM program to the Guardian.
Booz Allen Hamilton have today released a statement on their site regarding the revelation that one of their previous employees had leaked information to the Guardian.
June 11, 2013
(Updated Information Underlined)
Booz Allen can confirm that Edward Snowden, 29, was an employee of our firm for less than 3 months, assigned to a team in Hawaii. Snowden, who had a salary at the rate of $122,000, was terminated June 10, 2013 for violations of the firm’s code of ethics and firm policy. News reports that this individual has claimed to have leaked classified information are shocking, and if accurate, this action represents a grave violation of the code of conduct and core values of our firm. We will work closely with our clients and authorities in their investigation of this matter.
Below you can find the letters/statements that the three companies have made to the US government, requesting permission to publicly disclose the FISC data reports that they have been forced to hand over to the NSA. Apple, who were another major company accused of allowing NSA direct server access to private clients data have yet to make a similar statement.
Google’s letter to US Attorney General Holder and FBI Director Robert Mueller:
Google has worked tremendously hard over the past fifteen years to earn our users’ trust. For example, we offer encryption across our services; we have hired some of the best security engineers in the world; and we have consistently pushed back on overly broad government requests for our users’ data.
We have always made clear that we comply with valid legal requests. And last week, the Director of National Intelligence acknowledged that service providers have received Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requests.
Assertions in the press that our compliance with these requests gives the U.S. government unfettered access to our users’ data are simply untrue. However, government nondisclosure obligations regarding the number of FISA national security requests that Google receives, as well as the number of accounts covered by those requests, fuel that speculation.
We therefore ask you to help make it possible for Google to publish in our Transparency Report aggregate numbers of national security requests, including FISA disclosures—in terms of both the number we receive and their scope. Google’s numbers would clearly show that our compliance with these requests falls far short of the claims being made. Google has nothing to hide.
Google appreciates that you authorized the recent disclosure of general numbers for national security letters. There have been no adverse consequences arising from their publication, and in fact more companies are receiving your approval to do so as a result of Google’s initiative. Transparency here will likewise serve the public interest without harming national security.
We will be making this letter public and await your response.
Chief Legal Officer
Official statement from Facebook’s General Counsel, Ted Ullyot:
As Mark said last week, we strongly encourage all governments to be much more transparent about all programs aimed at keeping the public safe. In the past, we have questioned the value of releasing a transparency report that, because of exactly these types of government restrictions on disclosure, is necessarily incomplete and therefore potentially misleading to users. We would welcome the opportunity to provide a transparency report that allows us to share with those who use Facebook around the world a complete picture of the government requests we receive, and how we respond. We urge the United States government to help make that possible by allowing companies to include information about the size and scope of national security requests we receive, and look forward to publishing a report that includes that information.
Microsoft’s official request to the US government:
“Permitting greater transparency on the aggregate volume and scope of national security requests, including FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) orders, would help the community understand and debate these important issues,” Microsoft said in an emailed statement.
“Our recent report went as far as we legally could and the government should take action to allow companies to provide additional transparency”
Don’t hold your breath on that happening anytime soon.