Microsoft Wants Transparency Federal Data Requests
June 27, 2013

Microsoft Joins Google In Fight For More Transparency On Federal Data Requests

Michael Harper for - Your Universe Online

Last week Google took to a special court to ask the federal government for permission to reveal specific information about the data requests they receive as a part of a data mining operation known as PRISM.

Once news about the data mining operation was leaked, other companies which were said to have been involved began issuing press releases with rough details about the amount of requests for data they had received from the government and local law enforcement. Now Microsoft is joining Google in asking the court for permission to be more specific in releasing information about the amount of requests they've seen, permission which Google is waiting to receive before they announce how many requests they've received from the National Security Agency (NSA) and the FBI.

Microsoft, like Google, is saying they have the right under the First Amendment to disclose this information to users and should not be told by the government what they can and cannot reveal. According to the AFP, Microsoft sent in their legal request to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on June 19, one day after Google.

Like the other companies who responded before them, Microsoft is concerned with the public's perception of what information is gathered by Prism and how much of that information is requested by government agencies.

"The media has erroneously reported that the alleged PRISM program enables the US government to 'tap directly into the central servers' of Microsoft and other electronic communication service providers," reads Microsoft's filing to the secretive court.

"Microsoft has sought, and continues to seek, to correct the misimpression, furthered by such inaccurate media reporting, that it provides the US government with direct access to its servers and network infrastructures."

According to Cnet, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court's judge Reggie Walton plans to disclose procedural information about Google and Microsoft's push against the feds if no other agency takes issue with the decision.

The Department of Justice said they have no problem with Walton opening up about the charges from Google and Microsoft, saying any information contained in their complaints is no longer classified.

The Redmond-based company, along with other tech giants like Apple, Facebook and Yahoo, recently released statements providing rough estimates of how many requests they have received in the past six months. The companies are allowed to include how many requests they've received as a part of Prism, but they must also include other requests for information from local law enforcement agencies.

In their disclosure, Microsoft said they had received between six and seven thousand data requests since December 2012, which entails information on somewhere between 31,000 and 32,000 accounts.

Once the court issues a response to the companies' request to be more transparent about their role in the data mining program, Google and Microsoft will have until July 16 to respond.