Mike Isaac

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LinkedIn Challenges NSA Disclosure Rules in Court Filing

linkedin_380On the heels of sharing its bi-annual company transparency report, LinkedIn on Tuesday announced it had filed an amicus brief in Federal Court, challenging the United States government’s current position on the disclosure of National Security Letter requests for private data.

“Our goal is to be as open as possible about government requests for member data,” LinkedIn general counsel Erika Rottenberg wrote in a company blog post on Tuesday. “Unfortunately, our Transparency Report doesn’t include requests related to U.S. national security-related matters. This is because the U.S. government prohibits us from doing so.”

“Despite our best efforts, we are still prohibited from sharing information about national security-related requests in a way that’s meaningful to our members and community,” Rottenberg wrote. “So we’re left with no choice but to file legal challenges to the U.S. government’s position.”

LinkedIn is the latest large Internet company to challenge the Federal government, which prohibits corporations from disclosing to the public the amount and frequency of NSA requests for user data they’ve received. Traditionally, it has been illegal for companies to even acknowledge that they have received NSA letters at all.

Other challengers to the government’s position include Facebook, Apple, Microsoft and Yahoo, among many more.

The wave of pushback comes in the wake of classified documents released by former NSA employee and whistleblower Edward Snowden, who earlier this year made public NSA programs designed to collect user data from Internet companies with their permission.

In June, Facebook reached an agreement with the feds that for the first time allowed companies to disclose some data on the types of requests received, including those made under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. However, Facebook drew some criticism from other companies — including Google — as the allowance called only for sharing national security request numbers in aggregate with other data requests, rather than separately.


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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald