back to article Secret US spy court lets Microsoft, Google reveal their petitions

America's most secret court will allow Google and Microsoft to reveal details of their legal battle to lift a gag order preventing them from disclosing how much data they give to spooks. The tech giants want the right to tell the world exactly how much information they hand over to spies and have demanded the secretive Foreign …


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  1. Winkypop Silver badge
    Big Brother

    The truth is a funny thing

    There's their truth, your truth and THE truth.

    When it comes to the latter, your mileage may vary.

    1. Kit-Fox

      Re: The truth is a funny thing

      Understanding is a three edged sword; Your Side, Their Side & The Truth

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The truth is a funny thing

        No, there are lies, damned lies, and Obama.

      2. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

        Re: The truth is a funny thing

        Understanding is a three edged sword, and then the Vorlons annihilate your planet.

    2. Shannon Jacobs

      The truth will make you free or enslave you

      Just depends on who has it and how much. Let me clarify:

      It's obvious that your past mistakes can be used against you, especially if any of them are wander over any legal edges. It's also obvious that knowledge of your weaknesses can be used to attack you. However, even your interests and strengths can be used to manipulate and control you. Even knowing what you want to believe can be exploited to put you in a hole.

      Freedom involves meaningful and unconstrained choice. I guarantee that if they know enough about you, then they can constrain your freedom.

  2. James 51

    So, how many Babylon 5 references will there be?

    1. Kit-Fox

      by my count...

      Only the one direct B5 reference so far :P

  3. ratfox

    Passport revoked

    Does that mean that he is officially not American any more?

    1. An0n C0w4rd

      Re: Passport revoked

      No, all it means is that they've revoked his right to international travel. Citizenship is a lot more than just a passport. E.g. most Americans don't even *have* a passport.

      1. WatAWorld

        The USA has something near a million former Cubans who came to US shores without passports.

        It means they've revoked his passport.

        Not having a passport makes it hard to get into a country. You need to be a special case, like for example, a political refugee.

        The USA has something near a million former Cubans who came to US shores without passports.

        Certainly Snowden has a lot more cause to be a refugee than that million Cubans.

      2. kellerr13

        Re: Passport revoked

        Passports are nothing more than a formality. If they revoked mine, I would still travel to any country I wanted.

    2. WatAWorld

      Re: Passport revoked

      The other thing is, China rejected the US claim to extradite the political refugee seeking asylum there because the USA got his middle name wrong.

      Now that the passport is invalid, nobody officially knows what any of Snowden's names are.

      I mean, people come to Canada, the UK, the USA, every month having destroyed their passports during the flight and claim refugee status. And they get it even though the regime back home is chasing them.

    3. Tom 13

      Re: Passport revoked

      No, it means the author is a git who has no idea what he's actually talking about.

      Extradition does not require that you have an American passport. It requires that the the US files the appropriate paperwork without process errors like the ones Hong Kong alleges they made.

  4. WatAWorld

    My understanding is that they only claim that if the request concerns a "US person"

    "The tech giants insist they only hand over data when a specific legal request is made, backed up by a court order,"

    My understanding is that they only claim that if the request concerns a "US person", a US resident or US citizen abroad.

    Yahoo fought this battle, and the FISA court told them that for foreigners they should just do what they are told no warrants needed.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Could cause problems for Yahoo! Deutschland GmbH though

      They now have to explain to the German data protection authorities why they carried on sending data to the US when they couldn't be sure it would be adequately protected as required by German law. The situation's similar for Facebook and Apple in Ireland, and Microsoft and Skype in Luxembourg. Apparently Google's corporate structure makes it less clear where they may be liable.

      It'll be interesting to see whether it goes any differently to SWIFT a few years back.

  5. ShawnWC

    I'm not worried about the warrants or written requests for data... I'm worried about the boxes sitting on the network edge collecting every packet for review 10 years from now.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Does their defence matter?

    The NSA clearly has the resources to get at their data anyway even without their support. This is what the monumental Utah project is about! But of course it would be faster and easier to have direct access to the big tech giant's servers. For the individual it all comes down to privacy fatigue... Spy on me for Advertisers, Spy on me for American intelligence.... Either way, its icky monitoring and I say No thanks!

  7. Tom 35

    Why bother?

    "gag order preventing them from disclosing how much data they give to spooks."

    As long as the court can issue any secret gag orders, you can't trust anything.

    No mater what Microsoft/Google... say there is no way to know if there is still another gag order preventing them from telling the full story.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The number of requests isn't exactly useful information.

    When one request can mean a targeted order for a single person's email communications or an order to Verizon to hand over all data on every single customer for a period of months, telling us the number of requests isn't any kind of oversight or transparency.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The number of requests isn't exactly useful information.

      they're also fighting to disclose how many people were effected by the request.

      So for example they might say there were 10 requests but that covered 5 billion people.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The number of requests isn't exactly useful information.

      ....exactly what I was thinking it tells us less than nothing.....

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Advertising Vampires....

    Trust these Advertising Vampires? How can we.... They use so much double-speak in their own privacy policies it makes their assurances worthless! Best thing is get off the big tech giants and retreat to smaller ISP's and less popular email holsters, make the NSA work for their gravy!

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Even if they didn't willingly give up the data

    it was probably sniffed and scraped and stored from a data center or connection down the line from them.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    FISA Notta

    Many challange the validity of FISA and will not recognize it at all. Any "Gag orders" will be ignored by many.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: FISA Notta

      Disclosing the fact that there's a secret gag order in place is likely to put you in prison - and the difference between FIS and a superinjunctions is that one of criminal vs contempt of court

      The same thing applies to RIPA requests in the UK. Even disclosing the fact that a request has been made is a criminal offence punishable by a couple of years in pokey.

      Other countries have similar legislation.

      BTW, there are worse things than having spooks on your back - tax departments have legal powers that spooks can only dream of, including their own courts presided over by the tax derpartments, not judges.

  12. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    It's a *secret* court whose whose *operation* cannot be reported.

    Does this sound like an abuse of due process to you?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    So they are going to declassify the petitions to the court? Big deal!

    I want to know how many people are covered, and what records/data is being turned over and over how long a period. I also want to know how many terrrorism-related requests ended up in trials or convictions.

    The FISA court will never release that info....

  14. AliceBob
    Big Brother

    Just one last request ...

    When you get a chance, could you please send us your RSA private keys? And do let us know whenever you change them!

    Thanks in advance,


    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Just one last request ...

      One DISA spook was boasting to me in 1999 that they could already beat 1024-bit keys. I don't know if that was idle or factual as he was (and is) a blowhard, however it's a data point for consideration.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ummmm... what have I missed?

    Mr Snowden has shown that in Britain our GCHQ has been slurping up as much data as it can from our external links to the world.

    The NSA knew all about this, that's how come Mr Snowden knows all about it.

    It's an obvious logical conclusion that the NSA are doing exactly the same with Americas external links. They're not doing it to gather the information of Americans (of course) they're doing it to gather information about all them other people in the world, you know the terrorist ones.

    In doing so of course they must also be gathering the information of Americans.

    They don't need any laws to analyse the 'foreigner/terrorist' information, they're entitled to do that under the Patriot Act.

    Ergo all them court issued warrants must have been about information on Americans.... but didn't they say they aren't gathering/analysing the information of Americans?

    Why so many court warrants to MS and Google, if the Patriot Act guarantees them the right to do whatever that want with information about/from foriegners (slurped directly off external links (like GCHQ and Britain)) ?

  16. Shannon Jacobs

    If you believe what they tell you...

    If you believe what they tell you, then I have a perfectly lovely bridge I'm sure you want to buy. There's also some lovely real estate that we can look at... Let me see. When is low tide again?

    Actually, I think it is quite possible that the management of the company does not even know what data they are providing to who. If the politicians wanted a cloak of legality over it, then they could just write the law to allow the "Homeland Security" people to work directly through the appropriate technicians, basically compelling them to cooperate without informing their superiors. I'm sure I could draft a law with a blackhole provision like that. However, there's also the old strong arm approach of just breaking in and stealing the information, though it would be harder to put the legal bandaid over it.

    Yeah, I'm paranoid, but I'm increasingly convinced that Edward Snowden only knew about the tip of the iceberg. Several people have expressed amazement that a new hire in such a lowly position could have found out so much. My current belief is that what he saw was quite trivial compared to the serious stuff. They had just become so used to spying on us that they though that stuff was trivial and could be shown to any one off the street and no one should care--at least not compared to the rest of the iceberg.

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