SAN FRANCISCO, (Reuters) – Three of the largest U.S. Internet companies called on the U.S. government to provide greater transparency on national security requests yesterday, as they sought to distance themselves from reports that portrayed the companies as willing partners in supplying mass user data to security agencies.
Google Inc was the first to go public, releasing an open letter asking the U.S. Department of Justice for permission to disclose the number and scope of data requests each receives from security agencies, including confidential requests made under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Microsoft Corp and Facebook Inc soon followed with similarly worded statements in support of Google.
The three companies, and several others, have come under scrutiny following disclosures last week in The Guardian and Washington Post newspapers of their role in a National Security Agency data collection program named Prism.
Google’s letter – which represented the first instance of the Mountain View, California-based company acknowledging that it has received FISA requests – argued that releasing the total number of national security requests would show the company does not give the government “unfettered access” to its users’ data.