With the recent revelations surrounding the U.S. National Security Agency’s (NSA) widespread surveillance of the internet, online privacy concerns have become more widespread in recent months. This is especially true for social media, as the open nature of websites such as Twitter and Facebook makes it even easier for governments to compile information about citizens.
LinkedIn this week released its bi-annual Transparency Report, something it and a handful of other social media websites do on a regular basis. However, with the nature of NSA surveillance now public, LinkedIn is attempting to come forward with the part it plays in the U.S. government’s national security-related demands for company information. Unfortunately, the government not only prevents companies from releasing such information, but it also prohibits those same companies from even acknowledging how many of those requests have been made. It’s an issue that even Google has had to deal with in recent years.
Erika Rottenberg, general counsel for LinkedIn, revealed in a LinkedIn blog post this week that the company has been fighting to release the exact number of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requests it receives. From the blog post:
Unfortunately, our Transparency Report 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.
With no other options, LinkedIn has decided to take legal action against such secrecy. The company this week filed a petition with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for permission to publish the exact number of FISA requests it receives. LinkedIn has also requested that its petition hearing be public. A similar request has also been filed with the FBI.
In addition to the petition, LinkedIn has filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The brief is regarding a case about the gag orders that accompany National Security Letters, and argues that such restrictions are not required to maintain national security.