It hasn’t been long since former CIA technical analyst Edward Snowden leaked a cache of top secret documents which alleged that the NSA was obtaining user data from major internet companies. The companies named in those documents included Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, among others. Most of these companies denied knowing about the PRISM program. Its no secret that the U.S. government does make requests for user data under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act or FISA. The companies aren’t allowed to disclosed what sort of requests have been made under FISA. These three companies have petitioned the government to allow them to reveal FISA requests to their users, so that they can provide more transparency to the users.
Rob Bell, Yahoo’s General Counsel, wrote that withholding information about such requests “breeds mistrust and suspicion — both of the United States and of companies that must comply with government legal directives.” Colin Stretch, Facebook’s General Counsel, wrote in a statement that the company believes there’s more information that the public deserves to know. He also said that the information will help foster an informed debate on whether or not the government backed security programs “adequately balance privacy interests when attempting to keep the public safe.” It remains to be seen if the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court decides to allow companies to make government data requests public.