Microsoft: Talks with US gov't on surveillance transparency break down

Microsoft and Google will proceed with their lawsuits asking that they be able to publish surveillance request numbers

Negotiations have broken down between two Internet giants and U.S. government representatives over the companies' requests to publish information on the surveillance requests they receive, a Microsoft executive said Friday.

Microsoft and Google both filed lawsuits in June asking that the companies be allowed to disclose more information about U.S. government surveillance requests they receive. The two companies agreed to extend the government's deadline to respond to the lawsuits during negotiations over recent weeks, but those negotiations have failed, Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith wrote in a blog post.

"We hoped that these discussions would lead to an agreement acceptable to all," Smith wrote. "While we appreciate the good faith and earnest efforts by the capable Government lawyers with whom we negotiated, we are disappointed that these negotiations ended in failure."

The two companies requested that they be allowed to publish data about the number of surveillance requests they receive after former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden leaked information about the agency's widespread surveillance activities.

"We both remain concerned with the Government's continued unwillingness to permit us to publish sufficient data relating to Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) orders," Smith wrote. "We believe we have a clear right under the U.S. Constitution to share more information with the public."

U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper's announcement Thursday that his office would begin to publish the total number of national security requests each year was a "good start," Smith wrote. "But the public deserves and the Constitution guarantees more than this first step."

Microsoft wants to publish information showing the number of national security demands for user content, such as the text of an email, he said.

Microsoft and Google will move forward with their lawsuits after negotiations have broken down, Smith said. The U.S. Department of Justice has a late Friday deadline to respond to both Google's and Microsoft's lawsuits in the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

A DOJ spokesman didn't immediately respond to a request for a comment on Smith's blog post.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags U.S. Department of JusticeregulationU.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance CourtU.S. National Security AgencyJames ClappergovernmentinternetprivacyGoogleMicrosoftsecurityEdward SnowdenBrad Smith

More about CounselDepartment of JusticeDOJGoogleIDGMicrosoftNational Security Agency

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Grant Gross

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts