Google, Yahoo, Facebook unite to fight US gov’t

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Three of the biggest web companies in the world have banded together to demand change from the government.

“The United States should lead the world when it comes to transparency, accountability, and respect of civil liberties and human rights,” wrote Ron Bell, general counsel for Yahoo. But right now, it doesn’t, the group says.

On Monday the big three joined together to file suit against the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. They were protesting the restrictions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and National Security Letters (NSLs), rules that allow the government to demand information on Americans and prevent the companies from even discussing the data requests.


“We believe there is more information that the public deserves to know, and that would help foster an informed debate about whether government security programs adequately balance privacy interests when attempting to keep the public safe,” wrote Colin Stretch, Facebook's General Counsel.

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The companies have individually written letters to various government agencies pleading for more transparency in the past, and have asked to be allowed to at least publish detailed statistics about what (if any) such data requests they receive.

But those past efforts were unlikely to make progress, wrote Stretch. The groups have therefore joined forces in an effort to effect change.

“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. It’s time for more transparency,” wrote Richard Salgado, Google’s Director, Law Enforcement & Information Security and Pablo Chavez, Google’s Director, Public Policy and Government Affairs.