Microsoft and Google are suing the US government, after both firms have been unable to release documents showing official requests for user data.
The suits were filed back in June when the news on theNSA web spying scandasl firsdt broke, but have only been made public last week.
The suits demand a right to disclose more information about user data requests made under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act FISA.
Their representatives met six times with US officials and agreed to extend the deadlines for the government to reply to the lawsuits, allowing time for negotiations that ended in failure, Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith said.
“We hoped that these discussions would lead to an agreement acceptable to all. While we appreciate the good faith and earnest efforts by the capable government lawyers with whom we negotiated, we are disappointed that these negotiations ended in failure,” Smith said in a blog post.
“To followers of technology issues, there are many days when Microsoft and Google stand apart,” Smith said. “But today our two companies stand together…We believe we have a clear right under the US Constitution to share more information with the public.”
The issue was highlighted after Edward Snowden, a former IT contractor at the National Security Agency (NSA), disclosed that the US were tapping into Internet user data.
Referring to the government’s recent decision to begin publishing the total number of national security requests for user data for the past 12 months and do so going forward once a year, Smith said such a decision represents a good start.
Smith said over the past several weeks Microsoft and Google have pursued these talks in consultation with others across the technology sector.
“With the failure of our recent negotiations, we will move forward with litigation in the hope that the courts will uphold our right to speak more freely,” he said.
He said with a growing discussion on Capitol Hill, Congress will continue to press for the right of technology companies to disclose relevant information in an appropriate way, adding courts and Congress will ensure that their Constitutional safeguards prevail.
Smith said he believes it is vital to publish information that clearly shows the number of national security demands for user content, such as the text of an email.
“These figures should be published in a form that is distinct from the number of demands that capture only metadata such as the subscriber information associated with a particular email address,” he said.
“We believe it’s possible to publish these figures in a manner that avoids putting security at risk. And unless this type of information is made public, any discussion of government practises and service provider obligations will remain incomplete,” Smith said.