Saturday, August 31, 2013 - 21:51

Microsoft and Google are filing suits against FISA gag orders.

In a blog article posted by Microsoft's Brad Smith he announced that his employer will file a lawsuit in rare unity with Google against the US government over FISA gag orders.

The suits were filed in June this year. Apparently both companies were negotiating over this issue with the DoJ. The government agreed to publish general request data for the last 12 month but both companies requested a solution that permits to publish more in-depth detail like the number of actual requests for content.

Smith's primary argument is free speech and he's obviously right with that. But of course that's not necessarily their primary concern. Both companies, among others, got heavy flack for giving information that turned out to be untruthful. Specifically in context with their active involvement. The entire PRISM scandal has severely damaged their reputation as a reliable technology provider and that is going to show in hard dollars.

If you cannot trust their products - in terms of spying against you - there's simply no way to deploy them in sensitive environments. The general and quite broad access to data on FISA grounds will already be more than enough for many outside the US to restructure their environments.  If they cannot even name actual numbers this group could easily grow way beyond the commercial sector.

The main problem with FISA isn't the request itself. It's the fact that it is basically not controlled by anything that could be considered democratic or even constitutional. A single secret court granting access in total secrecy is not constitutional. And you cannot defend yourself against it either.

The reason why virtually all western democracies have a strict separation of law enforcement and intelligence agencies is grounded in exactly this problem. Intelligence services need to have much broader freedoms to act. But these extra-constitutional freedoms must not collide with the law. Hence they are usually not allowed to operate against - sometimes even in - their own countries.

For citizens - if applied correctly - this is somewhat of a safety net. For everyone else however it is not. And the internet doesn't stop at borders. From the POV of the US government this of course doesn't matter. But if they don't hit the brakes big time and change the practice and the information flow around it it will have a major impact on companies like Google, Microsoft and others.

There's nothing wrong with utilizing these sources as information. But when someone is telling me he's collecting meta-data of each and every phone call made in the United States based on anti-terrorism laws then there's something wrong with that guy's intentions. Specifically if he denies it and even has the nerve to lie about it in congress. They didn't say they can't talk about such a topic openly in public. They said We don't do it.

So if Obama - or any of his equally notorious predecessors - states that this is absolutely necessary for national security I'd like to know why. Because that claim basically states that each and everyone of the 310 million Americans is a potential suspect in a terrorist plot.

And of course this number grows drastically if we look at communication outside the United States.

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