updated 02:04 pm EDT, Fri October 18, 2013
Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter memo over spying concerns
A group of technology companies has asked members of the UK government that there needs to be a debate about Internet surveillance. Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, and Twitter have jointly written a memo to Members of Parliament (MPs) calling for more transparency in requests for information by government-controlled organizations, such as GCHQ.
The memo, received by The Guardian, recommends that "requests for user data made by the UK government are made as transparent as possible." The memo continues, stating "as public concern grows around the world about the scale of digital surveillance, we believe that greater transparency is important in encouraging a full public debate and maintaining confidence that powers are not being abused."
The new memo mimics a petition to the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, with the same request for transparency. Google, Yahoo, Facebook, and Microsoft are all pushing for the same thing, with all companies also regularly issuing their own public transparency reports, in the wake of the NSA monitoring revelations by Edward Snowden.
The Guardian is currently under investigation over the revelations, with a committee looking at whether or not it broke the law and endangered national security by publishing the details.
The memo also asks for the government to avoid adding more legislation relating to accessing communications data until after it has considered whether or not to reform international treaties governing surveillance and the enforcement of laws. MPs are already concerned over the "Snooper's Charter" Communications Data Bill, a law that would have provided more powers for spying to security services, but one that members of government had to examine earlier this year without knowing about existing surveillance programs.
In the most recent transparency report, Facebook claimed that the United Kingdom requested data 1,975 times from 2,337 accounts in the first half of 2013. A similar report from Microsoft states that received a total of 11,073 requests from US law enforcement officials for user account details in 2012, while Yahoo advised it had received more than 12,000 data requests concerning more than 40,000 accounts from the US government in the first six months of this year.