Mike Isaac

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Following Google’s Lead, Facebook Seeks to Disclose FISA Request Numbers

Facebook Home questions and answers session.Facebook is seeking to disclose how many information requests it receives under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, according to a statement made by Ted Ullyot, Facebook’s general counsel, on Tuesday.

“As Mark said last week, 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 therefore potentially misleading to users,” Ullyot said in a statement.

“We would welcome the opportunity 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, and look forward to publishing a report that includes that information,” he said.

Similar requests were made by Google and Microsoft earlier in the day.

Under current legislation, it is illegal for companies to disclose that they’ve been served with a request.

Yet the tech giants have faced a difficult situation over the past week, after the Guardian and the Washington Post published stories claiming that companies such as Facebook, Google and Microsoft were working in cooperation with the National Security Agency to deliver private consumer information — including emails and conversations — to the federal government. (The stories have since been changed, though it is unclear what role Google, Facebook and others have played in dealing with the NSA.)

If allowed to disclose said numbers, Google chief legal officer David Drummond argued in an earlier statement, it would “clearly show that our compliance with these requests falls far short of the claims being made.”

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work