Internet giants Google and Facebook once again said they want to be more transparent regarding their dealings with the most secretive court in the United States.
The companies submitted petitions on Monday stating their desire to be able to publish statistical reports on requests for information they receive under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
In a blog post, Google announced it had filed an amended petition (.PDF) in the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), not only asking for the ability to disclose statistics, but also requesting that the court make public its hearing on the matter.
“Given the important public policy issues at stake, we have also asked the court to hold its hearing in open rather than behind closed doors,” the blog post reads. “It’s time for more transparency.”
Rule 17 of the FISC’s rules and procedures states that a judge determines if a hearing is necessary and sets a time and place for the hearing. If the matter is “non-adversarial,” the hearing is likely to occur “within the Court’s secure facility” — in other words, behind closed doors.
“Thank you for your inquiry. We have no comment,” Department of Justices spokesman Andrew Ames said in an emailed reply to our phone call requesting more information on if and when the proceedings regarding these petitions may happen.
UPDATE: Sept 10, 2:00 p.m. ET
Ames emailed us the FISC’s response to Google’s and Microsoft’s amended petitions (Microsoft originally filed one in June), saying the government would respond to the motions by Sept. 30 at 5:00 p.m. The court has not yet replied to motions filed by Facebook and Yahoo, according to its website.
The language in Google’s petition appears to be somewhat different than a previous version, submitted in June, which requested the ability to disclose “limited, aggregate statistics.”
Facebook announced a similar motion through a press release on Monday.
“We hope and believe the action we take today will help spur the United States government to provide greater transparency about its efforts aimed at keeping the public safe,” the release reads, “and we will continue to be aggressive advocates for greater disclosure.”
The company’s petition closely resembles Google’s in that it calls for the ability to release “aggregate data” regarding FISA requests.
Both petitions mirror the sentiment of a letter (.PDF) calling for greater transparency, which Google and Facebook cosigned with many other tech companies and civil liberties groups on July 18. That letter was addressed to President Barack Obama, members of Congress and other Federal intelligence and judiciary personnel.
A Google spokesperson said, aside from its blog post, the company is not commenting on the record regarding this petition. Facebook did not respond to our requests for comment by publishing time.
UPDATE: Sept. 10
Yahoo also filed a suit in the FISC on Monday, petitioning to be able to publish statistics on surveillance requests made by the government.
“We believe that the U.S. Government’s important responsibility to protect public safety can be carried out without precluding Internet companies from sharing the number of national security requests they may receive,” Yahoo’s attorney Ron Bell wrote in a blog post.
Image: Flickr, Robert Scoble
Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/09/09/google-petitions-transparency/