Dropbox is joining Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and other major tech companies in demanding the government to permit it to publish exactly how many national security requests it receives.
The file-sharing company released its petition to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) today, saying it has a right to publish both the exact number of how many national security requests it receives and how many users are affected. National security data requests can come under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), and national security letters.
At this point, no company has been able to publish the exact numbers for all of these categories in one report, and many businesses are starting to consider this a First Amendment issue.
Dropbox explained in its petition that the government has permitted it to publish these numbers, but only when mixed in with broader law enforcement data requests it receives. Law enforcement agencies will also ask for data associated with criminal cases separate from national security issues. Furthermore, Dropbox is only allowed to put these requests in a range of thousands.
“Because Dropbox received fewer than 100 regular law-enforcement requests last year, reporting in the government’s format would decrease Dropbox’s ongoing transparency efforts,” the company said in the petition.
It showed this comparison:
“Reporting in that way decreases transparency. It would shed almost no light on the data requests Dropbox receives and could foster the impression that Dropbox received many more national-security requests than it did,” Dropbox wrote.
Transparency reporting in this way means that we can’t have much transparency at all and these reports are important. As Electronic Frontier Foundation staff attorney Nate Cardozo told VentureBeat in an interview, transparency reporting keeps the government’s activities above the table. It’s an extra set of checks and balances.
Cardozo argues that we haven’t heard much argument for why we should keep national security data requests numbers a secret and says that these companies and more need to continue pushing for their right to publish this information.