Quite a bit of media coverage about Twitter going to court in USA to provide more information about requests from spies for their customers’ information. For example, Stuff reported:
Twitter is suing the FBI and the Department of Justice to be able to release more information about government surveillance of its users.
The social media company has filed a lawsuit in a California federal court to publish its full “transparency report,” which documents government requests for user information…
The San Francisco-based company said in a blog post that it believes it’s entitled under the First Amendment to “respond to our users’ concerns and to the statements of US government officials by providing information about the scope of US government surveillance.”
Twitter is amongst a number of high profile US-based online service providers responding to public concern about surveillance by government agencies. Another strand to shore up public confidence is Apple’s move (followed by Google’s) to turn on phone encryption by default so that they can’t hand over data on the device to law enforcement authorities.
What about NZ?
Why aren’t we seeing similar moves here? Why aren’t New Zealand service providers publishing transparency reports to show how many government requests for user information they get?
I’m not aware of any law or practice that prevents them from publishing annual or six monthly transparency reports. But there may well be so if anyone is aware of a law, regulation or standard practice please put it in the comments.
Transparency reports are about aggregate numbers broken up into meaningful categories. They don’t interfere with law enforcement operations or privacy.
So if it isn’t a supply-side issue, it’s likely to be a lack of demand. We, the people, seem to not be demanding it and online service providers are happy to keep us in the dark.
Why is that? There’s been talk about the GCSB and mass surveillance so why aren’t we asking for more transparency from those companies that are providing our personal information to law enforcement authorities, spies and courts (legally, whether or not they are actually legally obliged to do so, but that’s another story)?
Right now the only reporting on the extent of requests independent of government is from overseas online service providers like Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter. It’s sad that we get to know more about what’s happening in NZ from these overseas companies than from NZ companies.