×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Tech Firms Planning Highly Irate Letter To Government Requesting Transparency

samzenpus posted about 9 months ago | from the no-sir-I-don't-like-it dept.

Privacy 139

Nerval's Lobster writes "a 'broad alliance' of 63 technology companies and civil liberties organizations plan on demanding more transparency about U.S. government surveillance programs, according to a new report in AllThingsD. Those companies and organizations will reportedly ask the government to allow them to report more accurate information about user-data requests. At the moment, federal agencies forbid Google, Microsoft, and other tech vendors from reporting more than a broad numerical range; for example, Google might announce as part of its Transparency Report that it received between 0-999 National Security Letters (issued by agencies as part of national security investigations) in 2009. 'We seek permission for the same information to be made available regarding the government's national security–related authorities," reads a portion of a letter that will be reportedly published July 19 and signed by all those tech companies. "This information about how and how often the government is using these legal authorities is important to the American people, who are entitled to have an informed public debate about the appropriateness of those authorities and their use.' This is all continuing fallout from Edward Snowden's leaks of top-secret documents alleging that the NSA maintains a program called PRISM that allegedly siphons personal information from the databases of the world's largest tech companies. Ever since, those companies (which have all denied participation in PRISM) have been anxious to show the world that they only give the government as little user data as possible. This new push for more 'transparency' plays to that strategy, and the stakes couldn't be higher—if consumers and businesses lose faith in their IT providers' ability to preserve privacy, the latter's very existence could be at risk."

cancel ×
This is a preview of your comment

No Comment Title Entered

Anonymous Coward 1 minute ago

No Comment Entered

139 comments

Good luck (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44322985)

with that.

Re:Good luck (4, Interesting)

anagama (611277) | about 9 months ago | (#44323273)

Maybe if they put some weight behind real change it would be worth it. I think they can see that most of their future revenue is going to come from services where they host user data. But if people understand that the Third Party Doctrine, or Business Records Exemption mean that that "their" data is totally and utterly insecure, then the market for those services will be severely damaged. America doesn't have much going for it businesswise any more -- we have a weapons industry and flush government contractors -- but if the government is broke because nobody has anything but a Walmart job, those industries are dead. Technology is the government's biggest potential cash cow -- it should probably NOT shoot it in the head.

I think the tech companies might actually have "good luck with that" perspective. But they have to be willing to make the point. And then support at minimum, legislative limitations on the both Third Party Doctrine and Business Records Exception. Even more preferable, would be a Constitutional amendment defining digital content (including metadata) whereever stored (drives, wire, airwaves) as "papers" and that government access to such data is not affected by where it is stored, i.e., it remains a person's private stuff and unreachable without a warrant supported by probable cause, even if stored offsite so to speak.

Re:Good luck (4, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | about 9 months ago | (#44323433)

Putting weight behind a letter seems a bit fanciful.

On the other hand, they can simply present it as a demand, and state that the alternative is each of them will publish ALL the letters delivered to ANY of them and refuse to comply.

Let the DOJ or the DOD put ALL 69 Companies in jail or shut them down. Especially when the government is dependent on most of them and the citizens are customers of all of them.

Re:Good luck (3, Insightful)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about 9 months ago | (#44324189)

That falls in line with my own thoughts. It's time that the people showed government that government works FOR THE PEOPLE, not the other way around.

Just publish all the details. Publish everything. Tell the government to go screw itself - they can't enforce unjust laws. Government can scream "CONSPIRACY" all they want, but if 60, 75, even 90% of people and corporations are in on it, what can government do?

A number of articles over the past weeks have shown that congress really doesn't have a clue what NSA is up to. Congress critters lack the technical understanding to figure this stuff out. But, worse, the NSA only "answers to" a small committee, and that committee isn't sharing jack-shit with the rest of congress.

Each year, congress authorizes money for NSA and the rest of government, without any accounting for that money. I think that congress should just cut that money by about 75% and tell NSA to make do. At the same time, demand a full accounting for HOW that money is spent. If NSA doesn't have a billion dollars with which to snoop on citizens, and another billion with which to pay "analysts", then they won't be snooping and analyzing citizens. The money that they have left will be targeted specifically toward terrorism and national security.

Re:Good luck (1)

ridgecritter (934252) | about 9 months ago | (#44324269)

I agree. If all those who have received National Security Letters had published them and sought legal counsel to respond, it's likely that those letters would have been ruled unconstitutional by now. And maybe that's just my wishful thinking, but it's certain that continued lack of disclosure about these lunatic procedures will foster their wider use.

Re:Good luck (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44324785)

Maybe its time to stop writing letters and asking permission. Sometimes it is better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission. In fact sometimes that house is just so beat up, it is easier to burn it down and build an entire new one the way you want it to be.

Re:Good luck (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | about 9 months ago | (#44324501)

Let the DOJ or the DOD put ALL 69 Companies in jail or shut them down. Especially when the government is dependent on most of them and the citizens are customers of all of them.

And they will! Have you learned nothing?! Politics trumps logic. Always always ALWAYS!

Re:Good luck (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44323583)

Why is it that these companies who have millions and armies of lawyers don't just simply band together and stonewall the government's request for data, making the government take them to court, open public court, not some secret unconstitutional court, for each and every single one of the data requests and NSLs coming from these bureaucrats? Most, if not all of these companies have been cooperating with the government, rather than fighting them tooth and nail in courts of law. Are these companies finding out belatedly that sleeping with an elephant means that the latter may roll over on you and crush you?

Any so-called "law" that is as blatantly unconstitutional as the Patriot Act and the NDAA and others like it are not really laws and need not to be obeyed by anybody. Last time I looked, the Constitution was still superior to any so-called law passed by those self-serving politicians in both houses of Congress. How is it that in an open and free society under the Constitution of the US, that such a thing as a secret court can exist, which then can issue orders that the recipients of the orders are not even allowed to talk about or challenge in a regular, public court of law? Why is it that people like Mr. Snowden, who still appears to have a conscience, have to come along and shine light into such dark corners of the government that should never exist in the first place?

Re:Good luck (1)

Bengie (1121981) | about 9 months ago | (#44323999)

"Too Big to Fail" could be a good thing. If they all stonewalled, they couldn't all be punished without major harm to the economy.

Re:Good luck (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44324505)

WHat cracks me up is how these Tech companies were the ones willfully giving any and all information to the NSA and related agencies, and they are acting as if they had nothing to do with it. Companies (large tech companies) pretty much get away with anything because they can buy off politicians, or cooperate with government agencies, and when they get caught they automatically blame government or anyone besides themselves. The Tech Companies should also be part of the ACLU's (and similar rights org's) attacks, to just blow it off on government, to me seems really weak, and I question the ACLU's motives now-a-days for kissing the rear ends of big tech companies and other entities.

It is possible the NSA and related agencies were able to hack or take what they wanted, but I have yet to hear of a massive storage data attack from hacking groups, on MS's, Google's, Apple's data. Just because these companies are claiming that government agencies are doing or taking what they want at will, without them reporting it to the public, and only reporting the number of "requests letters" means nothing to me. Either way not convinced they had nothing to do with this, or were "forced" to hand over data.

The press/media is ignoring the possible willful involvement of the Companies and are targeting Snowden as some sort of sacrificial lamb, and supporting these false sense of terrorism for government to do whatever it wants. And the ass**les that say if your doing nothing wrong why worry about it should be shot, or sent to another country.

Screw 'em all (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44323011)

A highly irate letter only after they were publicly embarrassed. How self-serving. Fuck these companies.

Re:Screw 'em all (4, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 9 months ago | (#44323099)

A highly irate letter only after they were publicly embarrassed. How self-serving. Fuck these companies.

A balanced consideration is in order: Should we warmly regard these oh. so. heroic. companies for their bold stance? Hardly, this is snivelling PR drivel of the highest order.

However, considering the relative number of important friends possessed by "The Constitution" and "Shareholder Value" respectively, is it not a convenient thing that NSA activity be perceived(and ideally actually be) bad for influential American corporations?

Isn't it extremely useful that all American 'cloud' and telecommunications companies now have a PR problem on their hands(and quite possibly a sales problem, EU privacy mandates aren't going to make moving EU customer data onto American servers any more legal if you do business on that side of the pond, and do enjoy selling foreign governments your products on a "Don't worry, it'll be just between you, us, and the American Clandestine Services..." basis)?

Outfits like the EFF and ACLU, not to mention people like Snowden and Manning who take great personal risk, have the moral high ground; but perhaps less so with the 'army of effective lobbyists and vast financial resources'. These companies, by contrast, are mere mercenaries; but may prove useful for so long as NSA spying harms their interests, rather than serves as a revenue stream(looking at you, telco wiretapping fees).

Re:Screw 'em all (4, Insightful)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 9 months ago | (#44323211)

is it not a convenient thing that NSA activity be perceived(and ideally actually be) bad for influential American corporations?

You assume too much. This "irate letter" seems a lot more like a negotiating tactic than anything else. Remember, these corporations signing the letter are among the most privileged of all corporations, in terms of how the government treats them. They have their own personal tax laws, that allow them to claim that their profits are all earned in Luxemburg, and they have private countries where they keep their intellectual property so they don't have to pay taxes here. They are given special treatment from the local level right on up to the federal government. They have enjoyed decades of protection from anti-trust legislation (and yes, that includes Microsoft, even with their successful prosecution). These companies are a part of the government as are the biggest banks and the biggest energy companies.

I believe that behind closed doors, Google, Microsoft, et al, are just fine with the surveillance state, because it plays to their strengths and they're already on the inside. I'm not sure NSA spying harms their interests in any way.

Re:Screw 'em all (4, Insightful)

Pseudonym (62607) | about 9 months ago | (#44323471)

I believe that behind closed doors, Google, Microsoft, et al, are just fine with the surveillance state, because it plays to their strengths and they're already on the inside.

I don't think you have any evidentiary basis on which to base that judgment.

It wouldn't surprise me if Google and Microsoft have convinced themselves that whatever they did was right. Moreover, I find it easy to believe that the exact extent of their complicity (unlike, say, the extent of the complicity of telcos) was exaggerated in the leaked documents themselves, and they are genuinely pissed off that they can't set the record straight (as they see it).

Did they go further than you or I or any other civil liberties-minded person would? Almost certainly. But how far did they actually go? We don't know, and they're not allowed to say.

It's rich that the NSA gets to spin this as "people are talking crap about stuff they don't know anything about" (e.g. "the PRISM isn't a programme, just the name of a specific database" line) . What the hell did they expect? No, we don't have complete information first-hand from the people who truly understand it. That's exactly the problem.

So I applaud the tech companies for actually trying to disclose more. More information means we have a better basis on which to judge them, and judge them we shall.

Re:Screw 'em all (0)

Princeofcups (150855) | about 9 months ago | (#44324373)

It wouldn't surprise me if Google and Microsoft have convinced themselves that whatever they did was right.

Google and Microsoft are not people, even if they are corporations. They do not convince themselves of anything. There is no moral right, wrong, or in between. Corporations exist to crush the competition and dominate whatever market they focus on, and to convince the consumers to give the greatest part of their yearly wealth to them instead of the other corporation. Image and public relations are part of that, but please don't try to give them a moral conscience.

Re:Screw 'em all (1)

Pseudonym (62607) | about 9 months ago | (#44324687)

I think you know what I meant.

Some department of or office in those companies is responsible for taking in requests from law enforcement or intelligence, analysing their legal status and whether or not they are obliged to comply, and then responding to those requests. At some point, that group of people, in consultation with lawyers, decided what was the proper response. It is that group of people to whom I am assigning a moral conscience.

Re:Screw 'em all (1)

jhol13 (1087781) | about 9 months ago | (#44324793)

Disclose more or lie more?

As a foreigner I would never ever put my personal or my companys information in an American cloud as I am "too certain" or "too afraid" that the information is used for industrian espionage.

Re:Screw 'em all (1)

grantspassalan (2531078) | about 9 months ago | (#44323807)

These big corporations have been fine with their dark, secret, unholy alliance with the government until Mr. Snowden came along shining a bright light on their dark deeds in cahoots with the government. Now they fear and rightly so, that the public and many businesses will not entrust them with data services, because these tech companies have been and probably still are unwilling to sever their comfortable relationship with our out-of-control government. Now that their bottom line is affected, they are starting to squawk, but now that may be too late for them and their profit driven business models, disregarding any ethics or legalities. Even before the government's unconstitutional misdeeds were brought to light I have never entrusted my nonpublic data to any of these companies' cloud services. I sincerely hope that most people will not put their data in the cloud and that these companies will have many idle data centers as punishment for their disregard for their customers privacy.

Re:Screw 'em all (2)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 9 months ago | (#44324159)

"Objection."

"Overruled."

"Oh, no, no, no. No, I STRENUOUSLY object."

"Oh. Well, if you strenuously object then I should take some time to reconsider."

Re:Screw 'em all (2)

jdogalt (961241) | about 9 months ago | (#44323241)

Outfits like the EFF and ACLU, not to mention people like Snowden and Manning who take great personal risk, have the moral high ground; but perhaps less so with the 'army of effective lobbyists and vast financial resources'.

You lost me. But these companies do deserve to be punished for their simple network/security mistakes (that had grand consequence). They simply built the wrong software. In my opinion home serving software that keeps people in control and possession of their "papers", combined with open source pervasive encryption, was and remains the obvious right answer. These companies should be firing the inneffective employees that didn't see this coming long ago, and choose a better strategy than "wait for the day it all blows up in our faces".

Right To Serve. Period. http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=3929983&cid=44170993 [slashdot.org]

Re:Screw 'em all (2)

foniksonik (573572) | about 9 months ago | (#44324167)

There is no infrastructure currently to support what you are talking about much less ten years ago. Most businesses don't have servers and switching and storage. They use ISPs and data centers. Most individuals certainly don't have this stuff. Economies of scale are what makes it all affordable. This means you have to store data offsite and run your apps offsite. If it isn't Google it's Rackspace or Amazon web services or your local collocation hub sitting near a T3 backbone.

You are deluded to think that it can be different even in a future where servers are cheap and bandwidth is fast. Centrally managed by dedicated support staff will always win out over anything else in 80% of the use cases.

Re:Screw 'em all (1)

jdogalt (961241) | about 9 months ago | (#44324601)

There is no infrastructure currently to support what you are talking about much less ten years ago.

I call pure B.S. There are many ISPs that allow residential users to run servers. You're B.S. is so exceptionally transparent, I can quote an anonymous leak of Google's CEO and CFO that show precisely that there is no technical lack of supporting infrastructure-

(score 5 unrefuted Anonymous Coward leak post of Larry Page and Patrick Prichett (CEO and CFO of Google))
http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=3106555&cid=41288357 [slashdot.org]

Most businesses don't have servers and switching and storage. They use ISPs and data centers.

OK, so what, don't care. You are like one of those people for jailing flag burners who don't get that allowing people to burn flags without going to jail doesn't mean *you* will be forced to burn your flag. Businesses that want servers and switching and storage will buy them, businesses that want to outsource that infrastructure will still be more than free to do so. non-issue.

Most individuals certainly don't have this stuff.

That's not really true, but again, wouldn't matter much if it were. Most individuals probably do have a 10 year old PC they aren't using for anything else, and could easily run linux on it, *if they wanted to*. But nobody will be forcing them to. Just an option.

Economies of scale are what makes it all affordable. This means you have to store data offsite and run your apps offsite.

No, it really doesn't. What it means is that in *some* cases it makes business sense to store your data offsite and run your apps offisite. In other cases, the opposite.

If it isn't Google it's Rackspace or Amazon web services or your local collocation hub sitting near a T3 backbone.

Or your servers in your residence- *if you choose* (and if the terms of service or FCC interpretation of network neutrality allow it)

You are deluded to think that it can be different even in a future where servers are cheap and bandwidth is fast.

I hope you are just trolling and aren't so stupid as to actually believe that. A raspberri pi already can do many interesting things as a server (cheap already), and bandwidth is already fast, compared to 10 years ago (when slashdot.org and other websites were already doing very interesting things with many thousands of users, and a rather paltry amount of bandwidth used by today's standards. I just want to be able to do the same at home now that costs for servers and bandwidth have come down.

Centrally managed by dedicated support staff will always win out over anything else in 80% of the use cases.

And even if you are exactly right, you have still made my point. That 20% is where I want to be. I think Network Neutrality entitles me the opportunity to compete in that 20% of the market. Bruce Schneier seems to agree (Thanked me) with me and wishes me Good Luck with my complaint.

Right To Serve -- http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=3929983&cid=44170993 [slashdot.org]

Re:Screw 'em all (1)

black6host (469985) | about 9 months ago | (#44323261)

When the shit hits the fan you distance yourself from the scapegoat anyway you can. Temporarily side with those organizations who have a good name. I don't think these companies really cared until it became a PR issue for them. They'll all point fingers at the bad guy (feds) until such a time when it has all blown over. Then, back to business. (still looking at you, same as parent, telcos).

One of many societal problems we face is the short attention span we have for this kind of stuff (and not just government, corporations are often on the shit list.) How many of our younger members know of Bhopal, for example. How many who do know just had their memory jogged? We will rail at the injustice, for a bit. After that, we will lose more and more until the next big leak outrages us again, until the next shiny thing comes along. And so it goes......

Yeah well... (2)

notequinoxe (2668889) | about 9 months ago | (#44323015)

...color me skeptical, but that looks more like PR damage-control tactics since they very well played lapdog. I maybe would have bought it if their reaction was immediate.

Re:Yeah well... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44323203)

...color me skeptical, but that looks more like PR damage-control tactics since they very well played lapdog.
I maybe would have bought it if their reaction was immediate.

So what you're saying is that maybe they should have tried fighting the warrants? Maybe should have taken legal action so they could legally disclose information about the programs?
Guess what- they did all that. You just weren't paying attention because there wasn't a sensational media story about it.

Re:Yeah well... (1)

canadiannomad (1745008) | about 9 months ago | (#44323581)

Guess what- they did all that. You just weren't paying attention because there wasn't a sensational media story about it.

Right, and isn't that the whole problem? They couldn't make it public. They couldn't make a big deal of it.
I wish it were illegal to ever squelch the fact that you are being squelched.

Even if they reported more "accurate" numbers... (3, Insightful)

MetalliQaZ (539913) | about 9 months ago | (#44323025)

... could we trust them?

Its' big enough to automate (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44324467)

The one thing is clear, its such a huge number that it needed automation, aka PRISM.

I guess there's about 40k analysts, 20 querys a day, 200 days a year, say 10 accounts per query are affected, that's 1.6 billion accounts a year. Not including data mining. So without the actual warrants, (even with redacted names) the numbers wouldn't add up.

Then there's the meta data.

NSA claim they don't need a warrant if an analyst thinks you are not a US citizen. (This includes UK, AUS, CAN etc. the leak show they don't filter out 5 eyes countries whatever they promised). So I doubt the count of warrants covers non-US people at all.

But also, NSA says meta data isn't specific to an account, so they are likely siphoning off all the meta data without listing it as a search of an account.

'Boundless Informant' listed 3 billion pieces of data per month. This is not some pissy little data grab, 3 billion is just the minor stuff, not including PRISM and metadata.

LOL (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44323055)

These people have a four trillion dollar budget and three millions employees. WTF do these tech pip-squeaks think they're going to accomplish with their impudent little letters?

Ooohhh. A "highly irate' letter (1)

Cornwallis (1188489) | about 9 months ago | (#44323075)

Next they'll haul out the cushy chair.

Re:Ooohhh. A "highly irate' letter (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44324421)

An image of Steve Ballmer, Larry Page, Marissa Meyer, Ginny Rometty, and Jeff Bezos picketing in front of the Capitol building and chanting "Visas, not Wiretaps!" just flashed through my mind.

Just go ahead & disclose then (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44323097)

"for example, Google might announce as part of its Transparency Report that it received between 0-999 National Security Letters (issued by agencies as part of national security investigations) in 2009. 'We seek permission for the same information to be made available regarding the government's national security–related authorities," "

Go ahead & disclose it, you're corporations, you're above the law. The govt can't tell you what to do.

Nothing will happen, I promise you. Union carbide killed 8000 people and.... nothing. nada. zip. Same goes for the Exxon Valdez & BP.

Re:Just go ahead & disclose then (1)

anagama (611277) | about 9 months ago | (#44323319)

Go ahead & disclose it, you're corporations, you're above the law. The govt can't tell you what to do.

Nothing will happen, I promise you. Union carbide killed 8000 people and.... nothing. nada. zip. Same goes for the Exxon Valdez & BP.

Those corps harmed and killed average people. If you so much as sneeze in the direction of DC though, they'll fuck you every which they can because our Federal politians and appointed officials are far more valuable than anyone else on the planet. If you got a problem with that presumption, they'll find a way to stick you in PMITA Federal prison, Gitmo, or just kill you.

Re:Just go ahead & disclose then (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44323387)

Meh... just move your HQ to Mexico/China & you're untouchable.

In fact... in a couple years, the govt will probably pay you to come back.

Re:Just go ahead & disclose then (2)

khallow (566160) | about 9 months ago | (#44323797)

Go ahead & disclose it, you're corporations, you're above the law. The govt can't tell you what to do.

Nothing will happen, I promise you. Union carbide killed 8000 people and.... nothing. nada. zip. Same goes for the Exxon Valdez & BP.

Isn't this very timidity firm evidence that Google and company aren't as powerful as you claim? Here we have a government agency costing US businesses a lot of money and what do they do? Write letters. It doesn't get any clearer than that who's in charge. It's not Google.

Re:Just go ahead & disclose then (1)

mjwx (966435) | about 9 months ago | (#44324743)

Nothing will happen, I promise you. Union carbide killed 8000 people and.... nothing. nada. zip. Same goes for the Exxon Valdez & BP.

The Exxon Valdez was a ship, not a company. The company was Exxon Shipping, a branch of Exxon (now ExxonMobil).

better idea (3, Insightful)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 9 months ago | (#44323109)

Never wait for the government to do something. Just release the data and see if anyone has the balls to convict them of something. I bet not.

Re:better idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44323453)

That's a very good way to get some of your employees' asses landed in gitmo.

Re:better idea (2)

swillden (191260) | about 9 months ago | (#44323561)

Just release the data and see if anyone has the balls to convict them of something. I bet not.

Ah, you bet not. Well, that decides it then. The CEOs of these corporations need have no fear of being thrown in prison if you "bet not".

Most of the time, corporate actions produce consequences that fall on the corporation as a whole. But in criminal matters, it's not uncommon that the corporate veil is pierced and the individual decisionmakers are prosecuted personally.

Re:better idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44323783)

Ah, you bet not. Well, that decides it then. The CEOs of these corporations need have no fear of being thrown in prison if you "bet not".

I'll take that wager. Either way we win!

Re:better idea (1)

RoknrolZombie (2504888) | about 9 months ago | (#44324041)

Not if it's done en masse. How many bankers are in jail? That's right - if these 63 biggies decided to dump their data it could be considered to be a form of protest against the Government. Citizens can protest, and since corporations are "people" they have the right to protest as well. Ok, it's all BS, but it was worth a shot.

Re:better idea (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 9 months ago | (#44324215)

But in criminal matters, it's not uncommon that the corporate veil is pierced and the individual decisionmakers are prosecuted personally.

Would that be like the fraud that brought about the financial services crisis or more like the trillions of dollars of drug money laundered by the big banks?

Re:better idea (2)

FuzzNugget (2840687) | about 9 months ago | (#44323883)

One area where I *want* to see monolithic mega-corps collude -- to disclose what private information they were forced to provide to the NSA. What's the NSA gonna do, shut down America's entire tech sector, thereby crippling their very own operations?

Re:better idea (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 9 months ago | (#44324235)

Never wait for the government to do something. Just release the data and see if anyone has the balls to convict them of something. I bet not.

It is a better idea, if they really want something to change. Begging for permission almost never creates change in the social order. If anybody has an hour and a half, watch this lecture [youtube.com] about the 'Renegade History of the US' and how the beggars weren't the ones who changed things.

That said, I'm doubtful they'll do more because it's never been the corporations who improve liberty.

And failing that, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44323123)

They could always break those court orders en masse. See if the government has cojones to sue each of them after those particular revelations have become public.

Re:And failing that, (1)

Arker (91948) | about 9 months ago | (#44324165)

"They could always break those court orders en masse. See if the government has cojones to sue each of them after those particular revelations have become public."

This is exactly what they should do. The people who make these decisions are doubtless receiving emails right now detailing every piece of dirty laundry the national insecurity state has on them, along with frightening predictions of the consequences for them if they do more than write letters.

If they actually managed to get together and make that move in a coordinated fashion anyway, I expect they would win. The orders preventing them from doing what they claim they want to do are unconstitutional on their face and would be laughed out of any fair court. Fair courts are hard to find at the moment, I know, but the country seems about ready for a paradigm shift, and a lot of courts could easily rediscover the law in a hurry if it looked like it stood a chance in hell of being honored.

Writing on the wall... (2)

Kazoo the Clown (644526) | about 9 months ago | (#44323125)

So just how many tech companies will end up mired in this BS? A bunch of startups pop into business with security products that the NSA want's backdoors into. So they are contacted and inside info is exchanged, or perhaps even access info of some kind. Before long there are hundreds of developers from these startups all knowledgeable about what the NSA is doing regarding data collection. And we have thousands of NSA employees and contractors in on it too. So just who are all these guys keeping their secrets from if half the world knows about them?

What would happen... (1)

Rick Zeman (15628) | about 9 months ago | (#44323141)

....if all 63 published the info anyway? Safety in numbers, yes....

Re:What would happen... (1)

Pseudonym (62607) | about 9 months ago | (#44323495)

Then the next cushy billion-dollar government contract would go to SAIC instead of them.

Re:What would happen... (1)

Rick Zeman (15628) | about 9 months ago | (#44323719)

Then the next cushy billion-dollar government contract would go to SAIC instead of them.

Uhh, I don't think government contractors are the people clamoring for disclosure, rather the tech companies themselves.

Re:What would happen... (4, Interesting)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 9 months ago | (#44323533)

Keep in mind, that data is useless. The real threat is that the NSA likely has equipment redirecting data out of these companies without their direct knowledge. They probably even have staff working there to help facilitate their data collection. The NSA could sink any of these companies at the flick of a switch. So the idea that they're going to threaten the NSA with anything is rather silly. Also, they are likely the recipients of a lot of corporate secrets the NSA pulls in from around the world.

My bet is these companies said something like "Um... NSA? Yea... we're looking pretty bad over here... would it be ok if... I mean... could we send a strongly worded letter.... and uh...."

NSA: "No problem... we'll even write it for you! Now put that dress back on, we want you to look pretty for this next part..."

Isn't the real problem something else? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44323153)

I don't understand. I don't care about the occasional request for data. Transparency would be good, but it's not the key issue. What I am worried about is the claim that the NSA has a splitter so that they can siphon off all the data they need. Google and Microsoft claim that the NSA does not have a backdoor, and does not have "direct" access. But if they're splitting off all the data, and have been given the encryption keys, isn't this all a bit irrelevant?

The only time they'd need to make a request is when:
a) The data is from before they've been collecting
b) The data in their database is not yet nicely formatted for easy access
c) They are missing the encryption keys, for some reason

Isn't the splitter the big worry? And that these requests are just a small part? Combined with the fact that I'm not an American, this means they can collect a huge database of my personal data, and look at it any time, without asking anyone for permission. Perhaps I'm misunderstanding what's going on?

Re:Isn't the real problem something else? (1)

jythie (914043) | about 9 months ago | (#44323303)

The splitter is a worry yes, but the NSA is not known for sharing its data with other groups.. for that matter various governmental bodies are generally terrible at helping each other, so besides the NSA they also have to deal with requests from any number of other investigative sources like the FBI and the nebulous 'homeland security', not to mention state and local authorities.

Re:Isn't the real problem something else? (2)

jdogalt (961241) | about 9 months ago | (#44323421)

I don't understand.

No, you do understand

isn't this all a bit irrelevant?

relative to whay you suggest is the main concern- yup. it's called propaganda. nothing like the smell of it in the morning.

Isn't the splitter the big worry?

Yup. +1 for listening to the logical parts of your brain.

You might have fun reading about the crusade I've been on for the last 9 or 10 months- (and longer really)

Right To Serve -- http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=3929983&cid=44170993 [slashdot.org]

Re:Isn't the real problem something else? (1)

Arker (91948) | about 9 months ago | (#44324183)

Thanks for what you are doing. Many may not understand, or see the connection, but I certainly do.

Re:Isn't the real problem something else? (1)

jdogalt (961241) | about 9 months ago | (#44324619)

Thanks for your thanks. It really means a lot. 11 more days till I get my first on the record answer from Google... I so hope they just admit I was right all along. But if they don't, you and the dozen or two others I've had see my point along the way will definitely make me feel a little less insane. It means a lot. Time will tell...

Re:Isn't the real problem something else? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44323435)

Combined with the fact that I'm not an American, this means they can collect a huge database of my personal data, and look at it any time, without asking anyone for permission. Perhaps I'm misunderstanding what's going on?

Yes, you misunderstand. Being American has nothing to do with whether they ask for permission.

It is but... (1)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | about 9 months ago | (#44323671)

It might not be real. I can see the reason companies want to clarify the process is because they feel it has been misconstrued. The public opinion seems to be the "splitter" thing, like the NSA can just get any and all information at the companies on a whim, without telling anyone. So people are mad, no surprise. However what if that's not the case, if the companies are telling the truth? Maybe it is something more like the NSA has a line to these companies, and can make requests and the companies, upon deciding it is a valid request, can send them the data directly down that line? That's rather different.

So perhaps that's more what is going on. The program isn't quite as scary as people believe it is, and companies want to tell people how it really works, but can't without breaking the law.

Who knows at this point.

Why only ask for transparency of their actions? (3, Interesting)

faffod (905810) | about 9 months ago | (#44323265)

These large corporations are claiming to have the people's interests in mind, yet they are only asking for a very narrow change that really doesn't affect the status quo. If they really are concerned with the extent of the surveillance, why don't they use their extensive lobbying clout to propose actual changes to the laws that would require transparency to the entire process starting with requiring judicial approval for any monitoring.

Re:Why only ask for transparency of their actions? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44323513)

Google, at least, is using its lobbying clout in this way.

It's due to Google's lobbying efforts that they gained the ability to publish the ranges. Google lobbied for permission to publish numbers and the ranges were the compromise deal between what Google asked for and what the government wanted -- which was nothing. Google definitely was the first one to publish any information on NSL and FISA numbers. The company is continuing to lobby for more transparency, and recently decided to go beyond lobbying and letters and filed a lawsuit over the issue.

There's a perception on slashdot that corporate America owns the government. While it's true that corporations do have more influence than they probably should, that's not the same as being able to issue directives. Lobbying takes a lot of time, a lot of money, and doesn't necessarily produce results.

Re:Why only ask for transparency of their actions? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44323669)

I think they key issue we're becoming aware of is that the NSA and related security agencies operate outside of the govt. They clearly operate outside the oversight of congress and I'm starting to think they don't take orders from the president either (The executive branch does take them seriously)

This, of course, means that they operate outside the influence of these big companies, which a can only lobby congress and the president.

My fear is that the NSA operates at the behest of the NSA and the private companies that provide services for the NSA.. A big fat pork filled paycheck for everyone involved, with no possible means of oversight.

Re:Why only ask for transparency of their actions? (1)

matthewv789 (1803086) | about 9 months ago | (#44324509)

Ding ding ding! We have a winner!

Obama is well aware of what happened to JFK, RFK, and MLK, Jr. Even Clinton got Lewinskied for bad behavior.

Re:Why only ask for transparency of their actions? (1)

Arker (91948) | about 9 months ago | (#44324195)

"If they really are concerned with the extent of the surveillance, why don't they use their extensive lobbying clout to propose actual changes to the laws"

There are ample reasons to suspect they are posing here and do not actually care about this - but you are still missing the mark. Proposing changes to the laws is silly. This crap is already against the law here and has been since 1776. The problem isnt that the law allows it, the problem is that we have a government that thinks it is above the law.

Re:Why only ask for transparency of their actions? (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about 9 months ago | (#44324469)

Transparency brings the hope of legality or the reality retroactive immunity.
10's of people from legal and upper middle management pleading the fifth will make for bad optics one day.
Having to remove funny videos of your own congressional chat from your own branded upload site is bad optics too.
You have a lot of cubicle staff in the USA who kept a lot of secrets who are now wondering if they will legally covered.
You have a lot of cubicle staff with multinational links who kept a lot of secrets who are now wondering if they will legally safe in their country.
How many staff kept that legally questionable pdf?
From a submarine cable deal to ...... ?
The more the staff and (lots of ex staff) read, the more they might be tempted to talk to the press.
The brands exposed want to get out in front of any legal questions and be able to tell all their staff "It was/is legal"
The legal fun of "conditions of your employment contract" and some no press "mandatory arbitration" vs the reality of domestic spying not been related to your employment and thus, not covered by the contract?

They want transparency now... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44323277)

For a moment there when I read the headline I thought the 63 companies were irate because the government wanted transparency on H1-B Visa requests...

transnational? (3, Interesting)

jythie (914043) | about 9 months ago | (#44323285)

Given how good they are at avoiding US taxes and US regulations by having branches and shell companies off shore, I imagine if they really wanted to break the orders they could find a way to do it and legally be outside US jurisdiction.

Re:transnational? (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about 9 months ago | (#44325007)

I don't think they bother with the gitmo rhetorics anymore. they could just as well claim that it's not under us jurisdiction on us soil.. and the claim us jurisdiction on foreign soil all the time for hacking.

Release it, already. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44323317)

The 'requests' for info were unconstitutional.
That is why companies are forced to keep them secret.

They should just release it. And if the gov't fights it, let them go to the Supreme court.
I suspect our entire country's meaningless trove of texts and tweets are being poured over by high school dropouts who wouldn't know a terrorist from a bowl of grapes.

mod =uEp (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44323333)

80s, DARPA saw BSD 7o stick something Mr. Raymond's

face saving (4, Insightful)

Tom (822) | about 9 months ago | (#44323361)

"They are violating our rights, spying on everyone and forcing us to cooperate in all of that." - "I got it! Let's send them a really stern letter!"

This is PR damage-control, nothing else. They're trying to create the impression they were unwilling accomplices.

You mean this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44323389)

https://www.cdt.org/files/pdfs/weneedtoknow-transparency-letter.pdf

Already hurting their business (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44323447)

So far Microsoft, Yahoo and Google have all missed their earnings estimates for the quater. Since the quatr ended only about three weeks into the Snowden thing, this looks like a bunch of tech companies pleading with the government to let them respond to a PR disaster that is hurting sales.

So scary! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44323545)

Gov Official #1: Tech firms are planning something... something big.
Gov Official #2: What?
#1: They're going to write a letter.
#2: Oh no! To their users? Are they going to mobilize the user base against us again?
#1: Well, no. They're writing a letter to us.
#2: Can't we just burn it then?
#1: Well, we could, but I hear it's no ordinary letter.
#2: You mean it has ricin in it?
#1: No, that's illegal, stupid.
#2: What poison is in it, then?
#1: No poison, but it's going to be irate.
#2: You mean it, like, has fighting words in it?
#1: Yea, and not just ordinary fight words. HIGHLY IRATE fighting words.
#2: Does that change how flammable it is?

Dump it all (4, Insightful)

Rob_Bryerton (606093) | about 9 months ago | (#44323591)

You want some transparency? So do we. Dump it all. Dump fucking everything. Expose this piece of shit government utterly and completely for every last request, letter and shady program.

You spineless twits, you have utterly and completely shattered the trust you had. Fuck you and fuck your cloud; I hope this exposure of your complicity with the criminal organizations in D.C. costs you billions in lost business. I don't care how you do it; leak information, "oops we were hacked", whatever. Dump it all.

The fact that there is 1 person, 1 guy out of >300 million in this country who has the balls to stand up speaks volumes to who the true enemy and threat to the American people, hell the people of Earth FFS, are: the U.S. Federal government.

So either these spineless companies are trying to save face, or Snowden has still got some really juicy dirt left up his sleeve.

I really, really hope it's the latter.

The damage is already done (3, Interesting)

tom229 (1640685) | about 9 months ago | (#44323749)

I won't host any of my data, or the data of the companies and individuals I consult and work for, with any company in the United States, and it will take much more than an "irate letter" to gain my trust back.

The Most Transparent Administration (1)

srichard25 (221590) | about 9 months ago | (#44323951)

“This is the most transparent administration in history,” Obama said during a Google Plus “Fireside” Hangout.

Re:The Most Transparent Administration (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44324127)

“This is the most transparent administration in history,” Obama said during a Google Plus “Fireside” Hangout.

The lies are most transparent.

The old "change the focus" con (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44324161)

Google is actually an R+D arm of the NSA. Microsoft crafts back-doors into all of its products on behalf of the NSA, and has designed the Xbox One console to NSA specifications to allow direct spying into the homes of every citizen who purchases a console.

Now Google, Microsoft et al want to change the discussion to a completely different and irrelevant interface between them and government agencies vastly removed from the NSA. The NSA spying is NOT, repeat ***NOT*** done for the purposes of retrieving evidence that will be used in court trials. When Microsoft or Google gets a request for conventional law-enforcement quality data, a completely different mechanism is being triggered, and one that has absolutely nothing to do with NSA mass surveillance.

A really really really stupid sheeple would say "if the NSA already has all the data imaginable, why go through the charade of making a formal request to Microsoft for specific records?" The charade is everything. Compartmentalisation is EVERYTHING. Intelligence agencies are NOT law enforcement- they are actually officially above the law. Intelligence agencies are actually authorised by what are known as "Star Chambers"- shadowy collections of elite individuals that MAY include senior politicians, judges, and military leaders. No matter which 'party' is in power, the Star Chamber will include people from both parties, to ensure conventional 'politics' doesn't threaten the power of the Star Chamber".

The Star Chamber that authorises Intelligence Agency activity is not elected, even though some members may be in other capacities. The Star Chamber concept dates back to the time of rule by kings and earlier, and is the most enduring form of governance. Matters of National security are seen as 'too important' to leave to issues of who the sheeple have voted for this season.

In the light of Snowden confirming facts already known by the smartest of us, but long dismissed as "tin foil hat nonsense" by the usual filthy shills, a "go back to sleep, you sheeple" operation is being initiated by all the major players.

Microsoft hands 100% of the information it has to the NSA 100% of the time. By attempting to mass market the Xbox One, Bill Gates is actually seeking to massively increase the scope of NSA spying on the general populace. So called "user data requests" are a smoke-screen, but Gates knows that people like the owners of Slashdot will attempt to make such an issue a 'talking point' that will drown out the real problem.

In the 'Brave New World' Bill Gates and the founders of Google are dedicated to creating, every sheeple will be subject to constant surveillance and constant control. No sheeple will dare to express an opinion contrary to those they are currently told by the mainstream media to consider the only valid truth. All real power wielded by the elite comes from the passive support of the sheeple. How the sheeple think and act matters.

And if you hate the word 'sheeple', stop acting like a sheeple. Stop supporting your masters and their systems. Stop voting (where your vote is in an election that will see one of the two major parties victorious, regardless of how you vote). In this situation, any vote is a vote for your masters' system. If the popular vote falls too low, your masters CANNOT avoid having to introduce a new voting system, to their detriment- you want a true proportional representational system that favours success by a myriad of small parties, ending the dominance of so-called major parties. Elected politicians from a hundred different parties are infinitely harder to co-opt, and reflect the plurality of society far more accurately.

Fight your corner, and that of your family and friends in a thousand small ways. When Google or Microsoft behave despicably (as with the Xbox One, Google Glass and Bill Gates universal Children's database) find ways to punish them. Everyone has the power to hurt the reputation of a company a little bit, and enough little bits really add up.

If you tell people and yourself you are deserving of respect, you will get respect. If you bend over and take it, you will be treated even worse in the future.

Re:The old "change the focus" con (1)

Arker (91948) | about 9 months ago | (#44324241)

"In this situation, any vote is a vote for your masters' system."

I agree with a lot of what you say, but this is not just wrong, it's dangerously wrong.

If voting goes down they will not be forced to scrap it, they will rejoice as we make it easier for them to create electoral majorities.

Voting for third parties and sane candidates reduces, rather than increases, the claimable mandate for establishment candidates. Every. Single. Time.

This is why they make it so incredibly difficult for a third party candidate to get on the ballot. Now you may think that jumping through those hoops to get someone independent, whether a libertarian or a socialist, on the ballot is a waste of time. That's fine - if you feel that way dont go out of your way to help with that task, that's perfectly reasonable. But once other people have spent their own time and money to get someone that is not beholden to the one-party-posing-as-two system on the ballot, the least you could do, for yourself, for all of our children, is to show up and vote for them.

What's the point? (3, Insightful)

Boltronics (180064) | about 9 months ago | (#44324223)

I like that this is happening, but I can't see it making any difference in itself. Yahoo fought in secret courts to protect user data, and lost. Even if US companies are trying to do the right thing, we can't trust them because we can't trust the US government.

If companies had the right to come out and say "we only gave the US data this information because we had no choice", would you still want to deal with them? The company might win sympathy points, but that clearly doesn't mean we can trust it. This is particularly true for end users outside of the US.

More PR Smoke And Mirrors (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44324331)

Each of the companies listed in the documents released by Mr. E. Snowden indicate clearly and unambiguously that each company was "payed" for services of each company.

For Apple or Microsoft and all the rest to fait 'Innocence' is not acceptable and beyond belief.

Apple was "payed" for access and records!

Microsoft was "payed" for access and records!

Ad infinitum.

The questions of fact now focus on the "pay" of the equation.

1) Who in the companies and organizations listed was the recipient of "pay"?

2) In what form was the "pay"?
  a) Was the "pay" in the form of cash (dollars, euros, franks or gold for instance)?
  b) Was the "pay" in the form of narcotics (kilos, tonns, mega tonns for instance)?
  c) Was the "pay" in the form of sex slaves (mostly male, 2 years old for instance given the predator traits of the CEOs).

3) Where is the money, if cash or gold bullion stashed?
  a) Remember the building that collapsed in Bangladesh! Was it holding Steve Balmer's slave prostitutes form the NSA 'exchange' program?
  aa) Did Balmer order the building to be demolished to cover his 'tracks'?
  bb) Did NSA order the building to be demolished to prod Balmer to be faithful to his 'agreements' with NSA.

Gentlemen Mr. Cook, Mr. Balmer, Mr. Bezos and all.

Your PR smoke screen campaign is moot and quite dead on arrival!

If you have a 'wife' or partner, better now to tell the 'wife' or partner that HURT is coming ... and soon.

Kissy kissy, eggs and bacie.

Its all about money. (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | about 9 months ago | (#44324585)

How do you think the government got these companies to sign these agreements in the first place?

They were given contracts or their existing contracts were threatened if they didn't sign.

Now that its out in the open their conventional customers are threatening to stop buying their products which would spell doom for most of those companies.

Its about money. And when push comes to shove, the government can't afford to replace the private sector customer's lost with government bids. And that the deal is likely going to undergo some strain as the tech companies make it painfully clear that they're not happy with the deal.

Re:Its all about money. (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about 9 months ago | (#44324921)

contracts? hah hah hah.

who needs contracts if you can bribe(processing fees) and threaten with jail.

Where are the journalists? (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about 9 months ago | (#44324607)

0. Re watch All the President's Men (1976).
1. Reach out to your contacts, contacts from a few years ago, older journalists from a few years ago who had many journalists friends with quality tech contacts.
1.5 Offer to share the fame.
1.6 Read up on US secretly collecting two months of press telephone records.
2. 99.98% of calls might end with a click.
3. Wait for the few calls where people that just have to bully, argue, threaten for 5-100 mins.
4. Let ex staff vent with filled ample justification rants guide you.
5. Reality of press telephone records finds you.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Sign up for Slashdot Newsletters
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...