Google and Microsoft to sue US government

Search giants in bid to reveal government requests

Google and Microsoft are planning to sue the US government in a bid to be allowed to reveal more information about data requests.

Lawyers for the pair had been attempting to reach an amicable solution with the government, but Microsoft's general counsel Brad Smith revealed that this had been unsuccessful.

This rare alliance between the two rivals is aimed at giving the public more information about what is happening with their data. It is thought the recent controversy surrounding Edward Snowden has prompted the companies to act, in order to dispel rumours that they have been collaborating with the authorities in any surveillance.

Currently, they are not legally permitted to share information concerning how many government requests they have had to comply with, a situation they feel is damaging their reputations. There is some suggestion that the National Security Agency (NSA) has 'direct access' to Google and Microsoft's systems, something both deny.

Microsoft cites constitution, free speech

Mr Smith gave some indication as to the argument Microsoft and Google will be putting forward, suggesting that they have a constitutional right to share this data with the public.

He praised government plans to reveal the number of national security requests it had made in the last 12 months, but insisted the constitution "goes beyond this first step".

Furthermore, he argued that unless the public could see all this data, no one could have a well-informed debate on the subject of electronic surveillance. He acknowledged the need for ensuring no security risk was created, but insisted this was something that could be achieved.

It is not yet clear when or where the case will be heard.

Daniel Nolan, managing director at theEword, said: "The strength of this action shows just how determined Google and Microsoft are to preserve their reputations in the eyes of the public. Whether the release of the data they wish to reveal will help them achieve this remains to be seen."

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