DOJ Rejects Request For More Transparency By Facebook, Others

By Jennifer Moire 

DOJThe Department of Justice rejected motions made by Facebook and other tech companies that would allow them to share more details with users on the frequency and types of requests the government makes under its surveillance programs, according to AllThingsD. The DOJ petition was filed with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court earlier this week.

The social network joined Google, Yahoo, LinkedIn, and Microsoft earlier this summer in pushing for more transparency from the intelligence community so that companies could disclose details about the types of user data being shared.

In the DOJ’s petition to the court, the agency claimed:

The companies’ contemplated disclosures risk significant harm to national security by revealing the nature and scope of the government’s intelligence collection on a company-by-company basis throughout the country.

Such information would be invaluable to our adversaries, who could thereby derive a clear picture of where the government’s surveillance efforts are directed and how its surveillance activities change over time. If our adversaries know which platforms the government does not surveil, they can communicate over those platforms when, for example, planning a terrorist attack or the theft of state secrets.

It remains to be seen how the FISA court will rule, but Facebook, the nation’s largest tech companies, and industry associations in Washington, D.C., aren’t relying solely on the U.S. legal system to swing their way.

Facebook joined 72 other tech companies and advocacy organizations earlier this week in signing a letter to the U.S. Senate and House Judiciary Committee chairmen, voicing their support of two surveillance bills moving through each chamber of Congress.

Since the National Security Agency’s Prism initiative came to light, it has been interesting to watch how the tech industry’s biggest names have reacted to the surveillance program.

Facebook Co-Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been vocal in expressing his views on the national security apparatus, stating at the TechCrunch SF Disrupt 2013 conference last month that the government “blew it,”  and “we feel that people deserve to know” more about these requests.

Contrast that public stance with Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, who claimed at the same conference that company executives feared getting thrown in jail for not complying with U.S. government requests. “Releasing classified information is treason, and you are incarcerated,” she told the crowd. However, Mayer added that she was “proud to be part of an organization that from the beginning, in 2007, has been skeptical of – and has been scrutinizing – those requests [from the NSA].”

Readers: Would you like to see Facebook succeed in sharing more details about what data it provides to the U.S. government in the name of national security?