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Microsoft joins forces with Google to sue the US government over surveillance transparency

Outlook

Microsoft is teaming up with Google (no, you read that correctly) to sue the US government and win the right to reveal details surrounding official requests for user data. The two tech giants announced the lawsuit yesterday, taking the battle over the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to a whole new level.

The National Security Agency (NSA) and other US government bodies utilise the mechanism to collect data on foreign Internet users, which has been in the news recently with activity through the likes of PRISM leaked to the media. Microsoft previously responded to the NSA controversy, stating the company is not spying on consumers.

Brad Smith, Microsoft's general counsel, published the lawsuit announcement on Technet, complaining of the government's "continued unwillingness" to allow the company to publish information regarding FISA requests. With many believing both companies have indeed been spying on their online activities, Microsoft and Google are desperately attempting to clear their image through attempts to be as honest with consumers as legally possible.

The leaks by Edward Snowden, provided to the Guardian and Washington Post, revealed NSA claims about access to technology companies' data through PRISM. Smith continues:

"With the failure of our recent negotiations, we will move forward with litigation in the hope that the courts will uphold our right to speak more freely. And with a growing discussion on Capitol Hill, we hope Congress will continue to press for the right of technology companies to disclose relevant information in an appropriate way."

Microsoft
Good guy Microsoft standing up to government

Previously stating that while NSA does not have direct access to backend systems and services, the companies admitted they were legally unable to disclose how many data requests have been completed. "We believe we have a clear right under the US constitution to share more information with the public," said Smith's post. "The purpose of our litigation is to uphold this right so that we can disclose additional data."

Smith did welcome an announcement made earlier this week by the US government, which detailed plans to publish the total number of national security requests for consumer data for the past 12 months. However, Microsoft's general counsel noted that the public deserves and the constitution guarantees more than what's currently in the works, "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."

It's suggested that said figures should be published in a form that separates them from the number of demands that only capture metadata such as subscriber information associated with a particular email address. Smith explains, "we believe it's possible to publish these figures in a manner that avoids putting security at risk. And unless this type of information is made public, any discussion of government practices and service provider obligations will remain incomplete."

The blog post aimed to not only lift Microsoft to the moral high ground, but also Google and other companies who are fighting for more transparency. Whether or not consumers will believe the walls of text that's being published is another question. What are your thoughts on the situation regarding collected data and governments? Are tech companies doing enough for customers?

Source: Technet, via: Guardian; thanks, Tragic, for the heads up!

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Reader comments

Microsoft joins forces with Google to sue the US government over surveillance transparency

123 Comments

First? *looks over both shoulders to check*
EDIT : Disclosure : This comment is supposed to be a satire of all those 'first' posts. No need to get worked up.

I am old enough to understand that  the obligatory first comment should be related to the topic. 

He meant grow up and stop acting like a 5 year old. Those first posts are so pathetic. It wasn't even remotely amusing, they _never_ are.

Thanks for clarifying what even a five year old would have understood. :-/ Chill man, this is all banter. These 'first' posts are meant to be funny because they are pathetic.

'Obligatory' coming from the word 'obligation', implying that you're obliged to make a comment about being the first to post. Which is wholly incorrect.

A first comment is inevitable, a 'first' comment is not obligatory. I had hoped the entire word would have got over it by now. But it seems that even amongst the high calibre of readers we have here it still prevails.

'Got' is also apparently a correct usage as the past participle form of 'Get'. One is not 'obliged' to use 'Gotten' everywhere and everytime. Just saying.

Thanks for focusing on a little typo and completely ignoring the sentiment of the message, which was clarifying that annoying posts are not required, no matter how sarcastic.

By the way, 'gotten' was revived In American English because people couldn't figure out when to use 'have' vs 'have got' (possessive vs either past possessive or past participle). I speak British English which no longer uses 'gotten'.

Guys chill, chill, chill. Never will I make a 'first' post ever again. It was never meant to snowball into this. :(

Hey Pan. You are new here. You need to go through the comment sections of some of the past articles on this website to understand what I am alluding to with my 5 y/o comment. Peace.

I believe the whole"First" comment is a carry over from YouTube. Where a major artist would launch a video and the race to be "first" to view and comment would lend to some YouTube notoriety and put you at the top of the comments list. Any use here is strictly for comedic sake or meme.

It's much older than YouTube. And the backlash here is because even if it was ironic in this case, there was a time recently when it wasn't and defects were clogging up the thread with useless comments.

Just sayin'.

I was unaware of that. In the end, the fact still remains that my original comment was just a harmless satire, and this backlash here is quite uncharacteristic of the generally humoristic tendencies of the users of this website.

Satire doesn't work the way you think it does. Lampooning a meme doesn't mean ironically pretending to be part of it. Satire has an implicit commentary on the subject, and cleverly communicates that commentary, never explicitly. Your attempt at satire was successful only in exposing your complete lack of satirical chops.

Look man, you are over-analysing this. Why can not satire be explicit? By all means it could be. I might be lacking in satirical chops, but you need to have a perspective. If you are so fond of scrutinising my satirical nous, look at my original comment - as innocuous as it could be, and look at why anybody should be even remotely incensed by that. It should have been left alone. I didn't mean it to be explicit, but when the thread escalated into kind of a fist-fight, I put the edit later to explicitly state that it was a lampoon. Stop being so harsh on people when the original intent was not to antagonize anyone.

Yeah, me too. I loved how people were so into opening their dictionaries and blurting out the meanings of the words. So hardcore losers who got no Sense of humour, so robotic, so accurate and geeky.
Let the FIRST commenter live in Peace. You guys are so jobless and serious minded to backfire him.
(please, if finding any grammatical errors here, don't correct me, I can live)

this wont change anything

if anything it will make them sneakier and more elusive and invasive

the uk is actually worse than the us

they cache the entire internet for MONTHS

they get waaay too much funding to stop what they are doing

50billion dollars is a lot of incentive

nice try google and microsoft but this is mainly to try and sway public opinion... more so for MS because everybody seems to give google a pass

Fairly certain most Internet sentiment is the other way around, Android users (just like they did as Linux zealots on Slashdot) pour scorn on MS despite what they do. It doesn't have to be a holy war. If you like Android, GMail whatever, use it. If you like MS products use them. Why people have to use what they like yet go out of their way to post hate about the other choices is baffling. People don't do this with cars. Imagine handing out on street corners, being a Ford owner yourself, and saying "hey you, GM driver, you're a numbskull - GM blows, is greedy sweaty monkey boy" etc. It would be the behaviour of someone needing medical attention. Yet here you are trying to provoke the same emotions. Just leave it alone. Live and let live, let people use what they want.

That will never happen on a street corner because the people who write $#!t on the internet hold a door for you in person. When they write, they feel invincible and hence rude.

Yes that does happen with car people. I have a Merc and BMW owners feel the need to tell me how they can go 0.02 faster on the track then my car. And the funny thing is none of them have it in them to prove it.

I don't think you have been around car fanboys. They do exactly the same thing.
Trash talking between fan groups has always been there and always will. It's when it becomes vicious that it looses the charm. Normal people know how to dish out and take, and they don't get mad to the point of wishing harm on others. See it this way. If the other guy wasn't around you'd have no one to feel superior to.
A little bit of competition is good since it creates passion. We have seen how that can benefit with all the passionate and great WP developers that truly keep the platform going with their amazing apps.

2nd.. As in 2nd Amendment. At least it was... Damn.. I understand the desire for the NSA, but the reach has become way too broad.. I respected the hell out of Qwest who refused to provide user info.. Here in the US of A, we have certain inalienable rights.. I applaud these two rivals for joining forces for the greater good!! If we allow Big Brother to know everything, how is that free?? Folks from GB, you've got it like that.. 1776 was because we didn't like it.. Hells yeah MS & Google!!

Because they will come after you and if they can't find you they'll take your family, and execute them making you watch...wait, aren't you from North Korea?!

It's about filtering out the people approving this shit. The US has become a very dangerous nation that the world needs to deal with before it's irreversible. Outside of US borders, it is a war mongering fascist state that assassinates and imprison people. The US used to be a great nation, but now it's just a fucking bitch of unknown powers.

How about using the information to stop SPAM. They obviously have the ability to know who is sending it, clogging up our inboxes. Shut them down!

First, they don't. Spam is often sent from unsuspecting innocent users' email addresses, and otherwise from distributed anonymous servers.
Second, Google would prefer to deliver you spam personally.

I think we all know by now that there is no such thing as anonymous on the Internet. I'm just saying that the technology is there and I'm sure they have run across rogue servers blasting out malware and SPAM. Phishing, Trojans, etc. can affect national security.

That would be the end of Go Daddy. Most of the spam I get comes from their customers. Granted probably hacked accounts.

And why not?? Governments are responsible for the most atrocious of crimes. Why can they not be held accountable as well?? I have 2 relatives, cousin & uncle, in politics here in CO. I would and will tell them if they f**k up too.

Fucking government has turned into the Gestapo. Even these multi-billion companies are being gagged and bullied by the spooks. They forgot they work for us, and we can stop the paychecks anytime we want. "Those who sacrifice Freedom, for security, deserve neither" -some famous dude. Ashton K.

That is a curious statement. Originally the Government was something ran by the people. Now however it is its of entity. And you can't really stop the Government's pay checks without ceasing to have a job.

Everything has a cycle, but all governments , no matter how benign they start out, at the end turn into assholes. The UK, German, and French governments are knee deep as well. The e-mails from Snowden and exposure from the Guardian are damning. FISA court ruled some of the broad surveillance was unconstitutional, NSA went ahead anyway, gave the companies millions and got the data so they could claim their hands were free. Disgusting. And Microsoft and Google are deep in this mess, with no easy extrication. Why did they provide the encryption keys to the NSA for Gmail and Outlook? Something doesn't compute.

I couldn't believe when I first seen this. Though it was interesting and wanted to share with my fellow WP users. Anytime Rich I do it for the community :)

I actually misread the title as Microsoft and the US government team up against Google... Its early morning. :(

We are sorry, we could not process your request right now. Please leave WPCentral and send a picture of yourself to the NSA.

Im just wondering... where is Apple in this? They just got lucky that no info was leaked about them or what?

The US Govt turned down an injunction that would have prevented the import of apple devices due to a ruling in favor of Samsung. I think apple is keeping a low profile.

I'm glad to see them work together for an important cause such as this. We can't let the government have this much power. I do not want to foresee a future where my children and grandchildren live in a future world being told how to live , what to say, when to eat, or where to go.

As Snowden has already shown us, the US Govt will do whatever it wants. Two companies suing it will have zero effect, I'm afraid. To affect real change we must throw out our president and all members of Congress that support this NSA effort. Then it will stop.

How about defunding the NSA, or stating any information acquired about domestic citizens will be immune from use by the prosecution for any crime forever? If the whole purpose is to identify international targets why not? The real reason is about the trail of Benjamin's.

But Microsoft won't let linux users have an official Microsoft office suite. I dont understand you people. Microsoft does the exact same thing and yet none of you take notice. I call that being biased.

I'll bet if Linux users showed Microsoft there's a good demand for Office they would make it. They have a Mac version which Mac isn't at that great marketshare. I know, I have a Mac.

Don't be silly. You should know that that ship sailed years ago. How long do you think linux has been on the market? And before anyone asks, not all linux users want or wanted only open source programs.

there are manyother pieces of software that microsoft keeps from other linux distros as well, such as direct x. Of course I don't mean all of them, just the more popular distros. You people should just accept that Google doesn't HAVE to provide these services for a COMPETING platform, apparently Microsoft doesn't have to, and that's just fine with everyone here, so why can't the opposite be true?

These two companies fighting for greater good of the consumer??? Now that's hard to believe!! I'm honestly glad.

This is great news I'm glad both companies are working together to protect the users privacy. Not so nieve to believe we'll have complete privacy, but no entity should have free reign this puts the government in check.