LinkedIn is the latest tech giant to openly challenge the United States government. The social networking giant says it wants to share information about how many times the NSA and other intelligence agencies asked for information on specific users, but the law won't let it. Other large tech companies have protested the government's promiscuous use of gag orders, mainly through a secret court system created by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
Yahoo has protested, and so have Google and Facebook. But for LinkedIn and these other companies, announcing government information requests isn't merely about being a good corporate citizen, it's also about keeping their many, many foreign users reassured that American spooks won't keep tabs on them.
Erika Rottenberg, LinkedIn's general counsel, issued a statement saying that the company's recent transparency report about government surveillance requests doesn’t include requests related to U.S. national security-related matters:
This is because the U.S. government prohibits us from doing so. We believe our members and the LinkedIn community deserve to know this information, especially in light of recent revelations about the nature of U.S. government surveillance. We've been in discussions with the U.S. government for months in an effort to convince them to allow us to release these numbers as part of our Transparency Report and these discussions recently reached an impasse.
Despite our best efforts, we are still prohibited from sharing information about national security-related requests in a way that’s meaningful to our members and community. So we're left with no choice but to file legal challenges to the U.S. government’s position.
Rottenberg's suggestion that talks with the U.S. government over secret warrants have "reached an impasse" are especially interesting. Meanwhile, new documents indicate that many judges at the secret FISA courts have strong financial interests in tech and telecom companies. Nothing to see here folks, just move along.
[Image: Flickr user octal]