John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and Others Call for More NSA Transparency

NSA-Logomag380Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft are part of a broad alliance of technology companies and civil liberties groups that will tomorrow demand dramatically increased transparency around U.S. government surveillance efforts.

In a letter to be published Thursday, the alliance — whose members include 63 companies, investors, non-profits and trade organizations — will call upon President Obama and congressional leaders to allow Internet, telephone, and Web-based service providers to report national security-related requests for information with greater specificity. Specifically, they ask that they are allowed to regularly report:

• The number of government requests for information about their users
• The number of individuals, accounts, or devices for which information was requested
• The number of requests that sought communications content, basic subscriber information, and/or other information.

The coalition also asks that the government begin issuing a transparency report of its own that provides essentially the same information — the total number of information requests made and the number of individuals affected by each.

“Basic information about how the government uses its various law enforcement–related investigative authorities has been published for years without any apparent disruption to criminal investigations,” a copy of the letter obtained by AllThingsD reads. “We seek permission for the same information to be made available regarding the government’s national security–related authorities. This information about how and how often the government is using these legal authorities is important to the American people, who are entitled to have an informed public debate about the appropriateness of those authorities and their use.”

The letter is perhaps the loudest call yet for greater government disclosure of digital communications monitoring following revelations of a sweeping surveillance program led by the U.S. National Security Agency. Certainly, it’s the most cohesive. It’s signatories are a phalanx of tech companies and civil liberties groups. Here’s a quick sampling:

AOL, Apple, Digg, Dropbox, Evoca, Facebook, Google, Heyzap, LinkedIn, Meetup, Microsoft, Mozilla, Reddit, salesforce.com, Tumblr, Twitter, Yahoo, YouNow, Union Square Ventures, Y Combinator, New Atlantic Ventures, The Electronic Frontier Foundation, Human Rights Watch, The American Civil Liberties Union, The Center for Democracy & Technology, Reporters Committee for Freedom of The Press, Public Knowledge, The Computer & Communications Industry Association, Reporters Without Borders, and The Wikimedia Foundation.

An impressive coalition indeed, and one with an impressively pointed message about the importance of disclosure around federal intelligence agency surveillance requests:

Just as the United States has long been an innovator when it comes to the Internet and products and services that rely upon the Internet, so too should it be an innovator when it comes to creating mechanisms to ensure that government is transparent, accountable, and respectful of civil liberties and human rights.

UPDATE: As expected, the letter was published Thursday morning by the Center for Democracy and Technology. I’ve embedded it below:


weneedtoknow-transparency-letter

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus