Big Tech fights off bad PRISM press

Sensing that they are getting lots of bad press as a result of the PRISM case, Big Tech companies are asking the government for permission to talk about it.

Microsoft, Twitter, Google and Facebook have urged the US government to allow them to reveal more details about the security requests they receive for handing over user data under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Fisa).

Vole, Google and Twitter publish ‘transparency reports’ every year where they detail how many government petitions they receive but those did not include Fisa requests or National Security Letter (NSL) demands.

They are forbidden by the government to tell anyone that they gave out such details.

Microsoft said that permitting greater transparency on the volume and scope of national security requests, including Fisa orders, would help the community understand and debate these important matters.

It said that it has been trying to legally tell the world about how many requests it is getting, but was stopped by the government.

The technology companies have to do something fairly quickly. Confidence in their networks is drying up fast after the Guardian revealed last week that the NSA is extracting online personal data from citizens.

David Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer has also written to the US Attorney General asking permission to publish in its Transparency Report “aggregate numbers of national security requests, including Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (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,” he added.

Meanwhile, Facebook expressed its intentions 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,” the social network added.

Twitter’s General Counsel, Alex Macgillivray, posted a message on the site: “We’d like more NSL transparency and Twitter supports efforts to make that happen.”

Meanwhile, the head of the NSA, General Keith Alexander claimed that its secret snooping antics had prevented  “dozens” of “possible attacks”, and warned that making details of the top-secret programs public had compromised national security.

According to Reuters, the attacks have stopped dozens of terrorist events that these have helped prevent, the NSA director told a U.S. Senate committee. “Both here and abroad, in disrupting or contributing to the disruption of terrorist attacks”.