Following a week of incredibly bad press, some "sources close to the situation" are claiming that Facebook and the National Security Administration are in "serious discussions" about being more transparent about the data the government requests from the social network. As of now, tech companies have a gag order on FISA requests they recieve from the government. Supposedly, Facebook and the feds are having a meeting about changing that. That all sounds great, but the AllThingsD report all but says that whatever the outcome of these talks, the results will mean very little to those concerned most about the future of data and online privacy. "As with all such dicey talks on an explosively controversial issue, the discussions might not result in any action. In addition — as per usual — the devil will be in the details here, as well as the cooperation of other big Internet companies," writes Kara Swisher. So, this could very well go nowhere and we still won't know how much the government asks Facebook to give up.
Unlike Google, which keeps a public log of the government requests it's allowed to discuss, Facebook doesn't release a transparency report at all because "of exactly these types of government restrictions on disclosure," the site's general counsel said in a statement earlier this week. The purpose of these talks seem to be another way for Facebook to make its case that the government is the one keeping things hush-hush, not them.
Since revelations of PRISM's existence, tech companies have attempted to shift the blame to the government. In addition to vehement statements saying that they do not allow the NSA direct access to their servcers, Google has even clarified exactly how it gives the NSA data. Earlier today we learned that certain tech companies even tried to fight the FISA requests, but lost. But there's still one unsettling part of this all. "The companies comply with a vast majority of nonsecret requests, including subpoenas and search warrants, by providing at least some of the data," reported The New York Times's Claire Cain Miller. That's not to mention all the secret requests it complies with. Disclosure is only part of the issue.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.