Blog of Rights

A Step Towards Surveillance Transparency

By Laura W. Murphy, Director, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 5:14pm

When Google published its first government transparency report in 2010, critics of the company showered praise upon the company, and rightly so. At a time when other internet companies were fearful of "stick[ing] their head up" by publishing surveillance statistics, Google boldly led the way. In recent years, Twitter, Microsoft, Dropbox, LinkedIn, Sonic.Net, SpiderOak and Silent Circle all followed, and received well deserved praise for doing so from public interest advocates.

Yesterday, Facebook announced that the company will begin publishing transparency reports. This was a surprise to many in the advocacy community, who have for years repeatedly urged the company to do so. We are glad that the company has seen the light and will be publishing this information.

Also yesterday, Google, Microsoft and Facebook issued public statements urging the US government to permit them to publish statistics related to the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requests that they receive. Public interest advocates have for some time asked the companies to publish this data, as the companies' past statements regarding the inclusion of national security related requests in their transparency reports were vague at best. We are delighted to see these companies push for greater transparency about the secret surveillance requests they receive from intelligence agencies, especially on the heels of the greatest government surveillance scandal in decades.

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