Tech giants team up to take on US Government gag orders
As it stands now, tech companies can't disclose exact figures on how many national security-related user data requests they've received from the US Government. A group of major tech companies aren't happy about the current state of affairs, however, so they've decided to do something about it.
According to a report from the Washington Post, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Yahoo have filed papers with the 9th Circuit Court arguing against ongoing gag orders the Government has put in place to guard against disclosure of these data requests. According to the court papers, which were filed in April, the four companies see the gag orders as a form of prior restraint, and argue that they are therefore a violation of the First Amendment.
According to the Post, this isn't about revealing specifics about any given data request. In fact, the Post reports that, according to court documents, "[t]he companies do not want to disclose any information that would place specific investigations in jeopardy."
Instead, the companies in question want to be able to release additional statistics on the number of requests they've received, as well as a more detailed breakdown on the kinds of requests Government officials have made. They would also like to be able to provide this information on an ongoing basis instead of having to ask permission each time they want to disclose, as is the case right now.
A growing number of tech companies are working to increase transparency as it relates to government requests for user data. Earlier this month, for instance, Apple published guidelines that state what user information law enforcement can—and can't—request from the company.