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Government Surveillance

LinkedIn Enters the Surveillance Transparency Fray in a Big Way

Today, LinkedIn has seriously stepped up its role in the fight for surveillance transparency, after previously joining with the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) and a broad coalition of companies and organizations in demanding that the US government allow Internet companies to publish meaningful statistics about government requests for users’ data.

LinkedIn today published its latest transparency report about the government demands it receives for user data. However, because the US Justice Department insists that LinkedIn cannot publish basic numbers about the national security–related requests it receives, the company has also taken the fight to court in two ways. First, the company has filed a motion in front of the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court to press for its right to publish statistics about the FISA court orders it receives, similar to motions filed by companies like Microsoft and Google with CDT’s support. Additionally, LinkedIn has filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of In re: National Security Letter, arguing that the broad and never-ending gag orders that accompany National Security Letters–another type of secret national security demand often directed at Internet companies–violate letter recipients’ First Amendment rights.

“The Center for Democracy & Technology is thankful to have LinkedIn as an ally in the fight for meaningful transparency around government surveillance, pressing for its users’ right to know and for its own right to speak out on multiple fronts,” said Kevin Bankston, CDT’s Director of Free Expression. “Like Mark Zuckerberg’s emphatic comment that the government ‘blew it’ when it came to communicating sufficient information about the NSA’s surveillance programs, LinkedIn’s strong statements today highlight a growing consensus in the US tech industry that the government absolutely must be more transparent about its national security-related surveillance efforts. That transparency is necessary not only to ensure government accountability, but also to preserve consumer trust in America’s Internet companies.”

“We’re glad to be working in coalition with companies like LinkedIn on all fronts—in front of the Administration, in Congress, and in the FISA Court—to press for their right to share more information about what they do, and don’t do, when the NSA comes calling,” Bankston continued. “We’re especially eager to see Congress move forward with legislation recently introduced by Senator Franken and Representative Lofgren to ensure that companies can engage in meaningful transparency reporting without having to individually seek permission from the Justice Department or the courts.”