back to article Microsoft and Google unite to sue US gov't for more transparency

Microsoft is teaming up with rival Google in legal action against the US government after talks to allow the companies to tell their users if they are being spied upon broke down. "There are many days when Microsoft and Google stand apart. But today our two companies stand together," said Redmond's general counsel Brad Smith …


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  1. Tom 35

    the government said that it would begin publishing an annual report

    So they will tell us that bears shit in the woods, but the rest is still too secret to tell us.

    As long as they still have secret gag orders, they can still do what ever they want and not tell us about the stuff they don't want anyone to hear about.

    1. Havin_it

      Re: the government said that it would begin publishing an annual report

      Why, what else do you reckon the bears are up to in there?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: the government said that it would begin publishing an annual report

        All kinds of shit. You telling me you never rolled up unexpectedly on a bear in a cave? You'll see missiles, plutonium, something that looks like a tank...but isn't. There are reasons why bears are the #1 threat in America.

  2. stephajn

    I have a dream....

    ......that these companies will just blow the whistle on the government anyway despite their gag orders, and when the public speaks up....perhaps the public can tell the government where the NSA can stick it.

    I have a dream....

    1. Rukario

      Re: I have a dream....

      And then you wake up in a cell in the Ministry of Love.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I have a dream....

        Who do they arrest if a corporation releases the information and everyone points the finger and someone else so it isn't clear how it happened? At least the "yes the company did it but there is no one to blame" seemed to work fine on Wall Street about five years ago...

        1. Don Jefe

          Re: I have a dream....

          No one was injured in the financial collapse, the benevolent government swooped in and saved everyone. A big name company publishing information though, that could result in hundreds of embarrassed politicians and a loss of political capital. That is totally unacceptable and people would definitely go to prison.

          1. nematoad Silver badge

            Re: I have a dream....

            "No one was injured in the financial collapse..."

            Physically maybe not, but psychologically, financially and socially, you can bet your bottom dollar that a lot of people got hurt. Me included, when my company folded due to the loss of custom. So don't tell me no-one suffered, a lot did.

            The only reason MS and Google are getting of their arse is because they might lose out financially. That will get a CEO of a big corporation's attention every time

            1. Don Jefe

              Re: I have a dream....

              Did you read the whole post or is sarcasm just not your thing?

        2. Wade Burchette Silver badge

          Re: I have a dream....

          There is a difference between the Wall Street and the NSA. The people on Wall Street contributed to a campaign, so the government was not really looking for someone to blame because if they dug too deep they would lose big campaign funding. You don't bite the hand that feeds you.

  3. Lars Silver badge

    via secret court orders

    "We benefit from living in a country with a Constitution that guarantees the fundamental freedom to engage in free expression unless silence is required by a narrowly tailored, compelling Government interest."

    How nice, with fundamental freedoms via secret court orders. (father Christmas).

    1. Captain DaFt

      Re: via secret court orders

      It may have been narrowly tailored, but as revelations of the NSA show, it's long outgrown that suit and rampantly running amok! (And forbiding anyone to say the new emperor has no clothes!)

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: via secret court orders

      it's just a question of where the commas go

      Monitoring he voters and potential opposition is a narrowly tailored and compelling Government interest.

  4. Mr. Peterson

    trust us: it's just a wee back door

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    What really needs to come out are the FISC orders

    Anything else is prone to manipulation by companies trying to portray themselves as more virtuous than their competitors.

  6. Don Jefe


    I learned in all this that Facebook's General Counsel (they are getting in on the suit too) is named Colin Stretch. I misread that as Colon Stretch. Probably because we're all getting fucked in the ass by the government and by these companies who'll spin any outcome of this so fast an impromptu fiction would probably be closer to the truth.

  7. Sureo

    So its all about money then. As long as it didn't hurt their bottom line they didn't care. But now....

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon

      When was it never about the money for a business?

      In a capitalist society the only way to make your feelings truly felt is to vote with your wallet.

      If the million or so people who marched in London to object the Iraq war had instead decided to take a month off work, buy no unnecessary petrol, and buy only basic food-stuffs (no frivolous items) then you would truly have seen a reaction* from parliament.

      *probably would have branded them all econo-terrorists or something, but you know what I mean.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Sir Runcible

        I think you'll find that most of the million that marched on London weren’t buying unnecessary petrol and only basic food stuffs anyway - didn’t see a lot of champers let alone the decent stuff out there. And a month off work would result in no job. If voting with your wallet worked they would make it illegal.

        The only way to make your feelings known in a capitalist society is to be one - or have as much money as one and the lack of belief in democracy to abuse it...

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon

          Tom 7

          Whilst the cynic in me thinks you are probably right, I can't help feeling that it's exactly that kind of defeatist attitude that plays into their hands. It's the old classic of divide and conquer writ large I suppose.

  8. Chris G Silver badge

    Colon Stretch

    A pain in the arse for these companies is obviously what all this is about!

    They are probably beginning to suffer financially so a useful PR move is on the books,I wonder how their cloud businesses etc are doing now people are looking for NSA free alternatives.

  9. nuked

    Anyone who thinks that moving their email, or their social networking to a site which is not hosted in the US, is deluded. Snowden's disclosures are the the tip of the iceberg I feel, and I cannot imagine that there are many places on earth that are outside of the reach of NSA surveillance. In fact, I would go as far as to say that I'd feel more comfortable with Google, as they are clearly made aware of the data that is shared, as distinct from a non-US site where the data is likely just slurped without a second consideration.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    did everyone catch the Microsoft Privacy expert?

    ccc talk here:

  11. RobHib

    For once I agree with Microsoft and Google.

    Even if Snowden wasn't involved, something as big as this level of surveillance would eventually out itself.

    What the US Government has done is substantially damage its own IT industry. There's much competition in IT outside the US these days and those on the outside can easily look elsewhere.

    It's anyone's guess how many billions the US has lost already, and that's probably only a small fraction of what it'll eventually lose.

  12. 4ecks
    Big Brother

    Full disclosure method

    Why don't Google, Microsoft and the others use the proper "Government Approved"©®™ method.

    i) Put all the information that they have in a PowerPoint presentation for the legal teams/courts.

    ii) Burn a passworded zip file to CD/DVD.

    iii) Put post-it note with password in with disk, clearly labeled with the contents.

    iv) Lose in public area frequented by journalists.

  13. dssf

    What the gov agencies are afraid of

    What the gov agencies are afraid of is the near-real-time disclosure of a NSL or FISA/FISC letter tipping off the suspects that they were on the (S)hit list of surveillance.

    I suspect, tho, that in reality, the agents do NOT need our passwords under demand during interrogations. They already have the power to compel Google, MS, Yahoo, and others to turn over direct, remote, invisible/ghosted/parallel, real-time access to our email activities. They already have code that in the form of a few pixels can hijack our sessions and to on an every-logon-of-target upload bits and pieces of our hard drives in the background so as to not spike the CPU. I've since 1995 suspected that criminals could do this, but over the past 10 years been willing to suspect the government more than criminals DO DO, and it probably is how they brought down some of the more resilient but ultimately careless criminal kingpins, not just by microwave lasers and in-room cameras, and sonic/electromagnetic detection of keyboard clicks and CRT hazery-imagery of passwords.

    Forcing us to hand over passwords probably obfuscates the existence of huger, greater capabilities, stuff Snowden probably has not even released. Hence, the UK heavy handedness in helping itself to some US intel, and also chummy-cousin-kissings. That just reinforces that ANYone passing through the UK can be called anything it takes to basically steal hard drives and electronics even for non-security reasons, even to economically destroy or psychologically torment very specific people. I suppose people will plan their flights accordingly now, if they even remotely associate with newspapers or speak out on such matters. So, I wonder often whether I will ever set foot on UK soil or territories, or if I have to, just take NO electronics having personal, proprietary, business plans or stuff that just franky isn't any of the UKs effin bizness. OTOH, maybe I'm just momentarily "over the top", but at some point, in the next 5 or so years, "over the top" will be the new norm, the new baseline.

  14. Brian Miller

    First Amendment, people! No compromises!

    "We benefit from living in a country with a Constitution that guarantees the fundamental freedom to engage in free expression unless silence is required by a narrowly tailored, compelling Government interest."


    "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

    Free speech, and free press! No compromises!

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pointless exercise

    Even if MS/Google were to achieve their goal, who would believe anything they had to say on the subject? It just isn't possible to tell if they are being legally coerced to lie about the extent of the snooping whilst insisting they are perfectly free to divulge everything. The only safe assumption is that any of your data that has gone outside your walls is in the hands of anyone who wants it bad enough.

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