” How complicit are tech companies in the National Security Agency’s massive spying scheme? They certainly bear some responsibility, but the rules under which the surveillance is conducted make it unclear — perhaps deliberately — the extent to which companies have resisted or folded, and also limit the channels available to the more privacy-minded to put up a fight.
News reports make it clear that many companies not only cooperated with the NSA, but even modified their systems to allow government spooks easier access to data. Others are known to have been less willing to make life easy for snoops.
Make no mistake, even the Twitters of the world are required to surrender information about their users when ordered to do so under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. And, they are forbidden to tell targeted users, civil liberties advocates or the public at large anything about such orders. Resistant companies can appeal, but only through the secretive process allowed them by the law. And we know that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court approved all but one of the 1,856 surveillance requests it received in 2012. One was withdrawn. None were disapproved. So, even the most privacy-minded tech executives have limited options when it comes to protecting their cutomers’ information.
U.S. Internet companies that want to resist government demands to hand over customer data for intelligence investigations have few legal options, due to the classified nature of such probes and a court review process shrouded in secrecy.
Some of the complaints about government pressure from business executives are, no doubt, sincere. But take them all with a grain of salt.”