Major tech firms battling in courts over gag orders on government surveillance requests.
Major tech firms battling in courts over gag orders on government surveillance requests.

FacebookTwitter and Microsoft among other tech firms are engaging in legal battles concerning government surveillance and the gag orders that prevent full disclosure of information requests.

U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers ruled Thursday in an Oakland courtroom that the US government failed to show the kind of “clear and present danger” that could justify restricting Twitter's constitutional rights to disclose information about its surveillance requests, however the Justice Department is reviewing the ruling.

The lawsuit aims to allow tech companies to speak openly about U.S. government surveillance requests they receive.

In a separate case, Facebook is challenging a court order preventing it from notifying three users of government search warrants relating to potentially felony charges seeking all communication, identifying information and other records from their social media profiles for a three-month period.

Microsoft is also challenging several gag orders on customer data requests and fighting to require the government to provide evidence that disclosure of warrants might hinder an investigation and to ensure gag orders have specified time limits. Many of the firms release transparency reports to give some insight into the amount of government requests they get for user information but companies are prevented from giving specific numbers and must speak vaguely.  

“The government is plainly over-enthusiastic with gag orders,” Stanford Center for Internet and Society Director of Privacy Albert Gidari told The Guardian adding that the government often backed down when challenged in many cases.