It’s not often that Microsoft and Google find common ground, but the NSA’s PRISM controversy has afforded them the rare opportunity to take a joint stand — and perhaps grandstand a bit. The companies will press on with previous plans to sue the government in hopes of forcing an accelerated release of information about its data collection practices.
Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith disclosed the plan in a blog post on Friday. He said that news Thursday that the government will publish the number of national security requests for customer data once a year is “a good start” but not enough.
In June, both companies filed motions with the court overseeing much of the surveillance seeking permission to publish the number of secret court orders they received under the FISA Amendment Act. Since then, the government asked for — and got — six extensions to respond to the disclosure request. Now, it appears that, for the companies, enough’s enough:
Over the past several weeks Microsoft and Google have pursued these talks in consultation with others across the technology sector. With the failure of our recent negotiations, we will move forward with litigation in the hope that the courts will uphold our right to speak more freely. And with a growing discussion on Capitol Hill, we hope Congress will continue to press for the right of technology companies to disclose relevant information in an appropriate way.
Apple, Microsoft, Google, Facebook and other U.S. tech vendors have been caught between a rock and a hard place, facing public furor over the fact that they turned over consumer data, but prohibited from talking about it. They also worry that PRISM revelations will cost them business both inside and outside the U.S. — something that appears to be happening.