While Microsoft and Google are typically in legal litigation against each other, this time they chose to work together. The two companies are jointly suing the U.S. government due to its resistance to let companies tell their customers exactly what kind of information they’re giving the government when it comes to spying programs like that of the NSA.
Specifically, Microsoft and Google want to reveal what sort of information and how much of it is being requested of them by the government in relation to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The government, however, doesn’t really want the public to know anything about FISA.
The two companies actually tried to sue the Government back at the start of June for the same reason, however, the courts granted the Government a number of extensions in responding to the suit. Yesterday, in an attempt to appease companies like Microsoft and Google, the Government actually announced it would begin “publishing the total number of national security requests for customer data for the past 12 months and do so going forward once a year.” Microsoft and Google weren’t satisfied by the move.
“The Government’s decision represents a good start. But the public deserves and the Constitution guarantees more than this first step,” said Microsoft’s Vice President of Legal Affair & Corporate Affairs Brad Smith. In a Microsoft blog post, Smith went on to explain what the two companies think is fair.
“We believe it is vital to publish information that clearly shows the number of national security demands for user content, such as the text of an email. These figures should be published in a form that is distinct from the number of demands that capture only metadata such as the subscriber information associated with a particular email address. We believe it’s possible to publish these figures in a manner that avoids putting security at risk. And unless this type of information is made public, any discussion of government practices and service provider obligations will remain incomplete.”
“Our hope is that the courts and Congress will ensure that our Constitutional safeguards prevail.”
tl;dr: American companies sue American government over hiding information from Americans. American companies place faith in American courts.