Microsoft, Google sue US govt over spying disclosure

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Microsoft, Google sue US govt over spying disclosure

Constitutional question.

The United States government is being taken to court by tech giants Microsoft and Google over the right to disclose the extent of state surveillance of their customers, with the two companies claiming such a disclosure is permitted by the US Constitution.

Microsoft head legal officer Brad Smith posted on Saturday that both Google and Microsoft "remain concerned with the government's continued unwillingness to permit us to publish sufficient data relating to Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) order."

FISA and the secret FISC court govern the US mass surveillance program revealed to the world by former National Security Agency (NSA) employee Edward Snowden, who has now been given political asylum in Russia.

Smith infomed customers that Microsoft and Google sued the US government in June 2013, as both believe there is a clear right under the US Constitution to share more information on mass surveillance with the public.

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) requested deadline extensions six times for a response to the legal action, but Smith says negotiations in good faith by Microsoft and Google have failed to reach an agreement.

Acording to Smith, the US government has committed to publishing the total number of national security requests to Internet providers for customer data for the last twelve months, and will continue to do so every year.

This, said Smith, is a good start, but Microsoft believes the public deserves more and wants to publish the number of requests for user content such as the text of an email, and also separate out demands for meta data in the figures.

Not doing so means "any discussion of government practices and service provider obligations will remain incomplete," Smith said.

The US government is also facing legal pressure from France, where the office of the city of Paris prosecutor says it has commenced a preliminary investigation into the PRISM surveillance program operated by the NSA.

A complaint against the spy program was filed in July 2013 by two French human rights organisations, and the prosecutor has asked police to examine claims of fraudulent access to automated data processing systems, collection of personal data by fradulent means and privacy violations.

The Indian Government has similarly asked all employees to cease useing Google Gmail for official communications, for fear of these being spied upon by the United States under the PRISM program.

The secretary of the department of electronics and information technology, J Satyanarayana, said Gmail data for Indian users is stored on servers outside the country, and the government would like its 500,000 or so employees to use email systems provided by the National Informatics Centre instead.

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