Compliance vs. Complicity

It is further ordered that no person shall disclose to any other person that the FBI or NSA has sought or obtained tangible things under this Order.

There’s an old saying that it’s far better to ask for forgiveness than for permission. I’ve seen the many, many statements by Google, Microsoft and everyone else about how they really want to tell everyone just how bad these government demands for information are, but they can’t because it would be illegal to do so.

Today we saw it again. Microsoft and Google continue their lawsuits and negotiations with the government, and ask for credit for fighting the good fight – for example, “The purpose of our litigation is to uphold this right so that we can disclose additional data.”

But at the same time they argue that they already have the legal right to disclose – “We believe we have a clear right under the U.S. Constitution to share more information with the public.”

Ok. So do it. You believe you have the right. You know it’s the right thing to do. Forget the lawsuit. Just release the damn information.

Do it.

21 thoughts on “Compliance vs. Complicity

  1. Lala says:

    You are absolutely correct!
    What’s the government going to do?
    Punish them?
    Punish Google & Microsoft?
    Hell no they’re not.

    • They could try Google and Microsoft, but they could also indict all the individuals involved in disclosure, the same way they tried Manning for Wikileaks. Everyone from the PR and marketing people, up the chain of command, to the developers who organized the disclosure data set.

  2. Steve says:

    This entire number thing is nonsense anyway. They let equipment into their data centers. They have no idea of the “number” of requests or users.

  3. clive boulton says:

    When Microsoft and Google say they’ll talk — res ipsa loquitur — when they really won’t.

  4. Sean says:

    In this country, corporations are individuals. These particular individuals (msft, goog, aapl, etc) are very influential and powerful b/c they employ hundreds of thousands of people, millions more own parts of them though the stock market, and they create billions in tax revenue for the government and Americans. If any individual should stand up for the constitution of the nation whose very laws and freedoms enabled them to become so influential and powerful … It is these individuals.

  5. Amen to that Michael.

  6. Adeo says:

    At this point, any “release” would show what we already know. The expectation of privacy is lost.

    It’s not just the NSA that is reading your email, the large companies themselves are doing it. There is no question that large companies, like Google, are forming perronal profiles and using that for more than targeting ads. Recruiting? Business deals? Investment? Yep.

  7. Some pretty hefty cash cooperation payments from the gov to the social nets and browsers may be part of the reluctance?

  8. Raymond says:

    “We believe we have a clear right under the U.S. Constitution to share more information with the public.”
    Sure. Because, as we all know, the Obama administration is SO respectful of the US Constitution…

  9. guessing that if they publish the info, they will break contract and lose the fees… if they sue, and win, then they can publish the info and not break contract.

    i agree with you mike, takes more balls for them to publish the data and sue, than to just sue and not publish until they win (which might take years, or never occur at all).

    • Andrew says:

      This is not about losing fees. This is about the “document waiver” they signed off on that the government is holding them to in the name of security. I don’t think the waiver says they can share what is going in relation to the data with the public. Those documents probably say any wrong doing can will result in serious penalties and time in Federal Prison. Google may have a lot of money, but last I checked, you probably don’t want to mess with the Feds. This is not a founder at a startup. therefore, its not a smart idea to ask for forgiveness, than for permission, unless you don’t mind doing some time.

      • Michael Arrington says:

        …and that is why the government will win.

        • Then why do these companies get tax breaks and exemptions and loopholes on top of that to exploit? I’m worried that eventually we’ll learn that all of this amounts to a collective of tech firms who together have more power than any singular government, even Uncle Sam. Money and power are synonymous, and no other country on the planet is as far into debt as are the United States. Glenn Greenberg has continued to tease that we have not seen the worst of the leaks yet regarding the NSA slides from Snowden. Not to sound paranoid or anything.

  10. Jorge Williams says:

    They won’t do it because they WANT to be told they can’t.

    • cgmasson says:

      My view would be that they don’t care either way as an organisation – but they certainly don’t WANT to be seen as complicit in something that could drive a negative impact on customer perception. Hence the very vocal lawsuit.

  11. Bill says:

    I think the sayings are:
    “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.”
    “Better to ask permission than beg forgiveness.”

  12. Because it’s all a Punch and Judy performance. These agencies can be coerced against their will to participate in the dagger and cloak stuff, yet they remain untouchable for the international tax avoidance schemes branching well into the billions? These companies have always received some degree of Federal funding, and they have in recent years been granted sizable subsidies. It is my belief that and and all claims of innocence or ignorance from these tech firms is entirely feeble attempts as saving face, for those few among their customers who might honestly care about the world around them. The government contradicts itself where regards the surveillance issue from one day to the next, there is no reason to believe their dance partners are not equally fallible.

  13. Jorge Williams says:

    This piece by Julian Assange explains how Google and the State Department are the same thing. An eye opening story, icymi.

  14. engineer says:

    Personally, I don’t even see this as attempting to fight on their part.

    If they weren’t complicit, they’d be filing lawsuits against the law itself, pointing out that the federal government has no legal right to force private entities to hand over data, short of a specific warrant, showing probable cause and detailing the specific data that is sought. Thus, even “All emails for user X” are illegal, if a legitimate warrant were issued for that, because the warrant must specify what information is sought, allowing the companies to automatically redact irrelevant information.

    Warrants are not only required by the constitution (the enumerated powers clause has no exception to the 4th amendment, even for “Terrorism”) but they must be very specific to the crime and the information being sought (according to the 4th amendment.)

    If we can’t trust these companies to fight for the repeal of these illegal laws, then who can we trust? If they don’t fight for the repeal then they are complicit in the criminal behavior they are allowing.

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