Despite denying any involvement and knowledge in the NSA's dubious PRISM surveillance program, tech giants aren't staying quiet about the need to shine public light on the number of secret national security requests they receive from the government. Facebook and Microsoft — two major companies implicated in the PRISM leak — have today joined Google in requesting increased transparency in government requests for user data.
Of course, PRISM is just the tip of the iceberg; Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and other major web service providers routinely receive requests from government agencies, which use "national security letters" to obtain data on users. These requests bind the targeted companies from informing users that their data has been passed on to the government or informing them that they are the target of an investigation.
As Reuters reports, a Microsoft spokesperson said that "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 defended its disclosures to date, stating that "our recent report went as far as we could legally could and the government should take action to allow companies to provide additional transparency."
Facebook lumps the US government in with an ignominious bunch
Echoing Microsoft and Google, Facebook also chimed in on the secretive nature of US surveillance. As AllThingsD reports, Facebook general counsel Ted Ullyot said today that "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 therefor potentially misleading to users." Ullyot said that Facebook would "welcome the opportunity" to release a government-sanctioned transparency report. "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," Ullyot said.
Earlier today, Google pushed for the same kind of openness, with chief legal officer David Drummond saying that "transparency here will likewise serve the public interest without harming national security" — a point that CEO Larry Page agreed with.