Microsoft: Secret U.S. Court Becomes (A Little) Less Secret


Both Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) have recently petitioned the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in the hopes of making its dealings with the federal government on their National Security Requests more transparent.

Microsoft: Secret U.S. Court Becomes (A Little) Less Secret

On the heels of Edward Snowden‘s statements made to various newspapers which inaccurately reported that the NSA  had/has direct access to its servers, the two tech firms are interested in showing its customers the scope of the federal governments “spying.”

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CNET has learned that Reggie Walton, the presiding judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, told the Obama administration last week that—barring any objections from the government—he would take the unusual step of disclosing procedural information about the internet companies’ litigation.

Microsoft Felt Essential to Join Google to Petition

While Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) was the first to petition the most secretive court in the land, Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) felt that it was essential to join them in order to alleviate justifiable fears raised by its customers.

“We continue to explore all available options to achieve the greater transparency we believe is needed on these issues,” a Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement. “The petition we filed last week with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is one part of this ongoing effort.”

Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)’s petition focuses on the company’s first amendment rights, with The Wall Street Journal being the first to suggest that the Constitution “does not permit the government to bar Microsoft from speaking about an issue of great importance to its customers, shareholders, and the public, while, simultaneously, senior government officials are speaking about the very same subject.”

At issue for the two, and others, is that the companies’ belief that they have a right to disclose the amount of times the government has requested user information.

Companies Reveal Total NSA Requests

Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) says it received a combined total of “between 6,000 and 7,000” orders from federal, state, and local government agencies for “between 31,000 and 32,000 consumer accounts” during the six months that ended in December 2012. Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB)’s total: up to 10,000 requests for up to 19,000 accounts. Apple Inc (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s total: up to 5,000 requests for up to 10,000 accounts or devices. Yahoo disclosed receiving up to 13,000 requests, but did not say how many user accounts were swept in. Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) has asked for permission to be far more specific.

While the Snowden case may be winding down, it’s nice to see companies proactively trying to clear their names.