The social networking company LinkedIn on Wednesday joined four others in petitioning a secret court to allow it to tell its users just how many times the Federal government has come to it demanding information about its members.
According to the Associated Press, LinkedIn has filed a motion with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court to allow it to make public the number of national security orders the company has received under the 1974 law. The company had previously been in negotiations with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to allow them to include within their Transparency Report the number of national security requests it had received. The FBI, according to LinkedIn, was only willing to allow annual publication of a broad “bucket” — from 0 to 1000 — of National Security Letters (NSL) received so long as no reporting of FISA requests was included as well. The other alternative was to allow for publishing a “single bucket of 0 to 1000 every six months all government requests, including NSLs and FISA requests, but cannot break the bucket down into specific numbers, percentages or otherwise.”
Neither of those options worked for LinkedIn, leading them to break off the negotiations and head for court. “Because we have been unable to reach agreement and because we firmly believe the restrictions being imposed by the Bureau do not comport with the law or with Linkedln’s constitutional rights, and make no sense as applied to Linkedln, we have been left with no choice but to seek legal recourse,” Erika Rottenberg, LinkedIn’s Vice President and General Counsel, said in a letter to FBI Director James Comey dated Sept. 16 and published on Tuesday.
Four other companies are currently petitioning the FISA Court to allow for the release of the data: Google, Yahoo, Facebook, and Microsoft. “We therefore ask you to help make it possible for Google to publish in our Transparency Report aggregate numbers of national security requests, including FISA disclosures—in terms of both the number we receive and their scope,” Google petitioned the FBI in June, adding that the California-based company has nothing to hide.
Not currently clear at the moment is precisely what the Federal government’s reasoning is in requesting this sort of information from LinkedIn of all companies, given the site’s mission of connecting professionals with others in similar careers. While LinkedIn does boast several million members, the utility of the site for terrorists is uncertain. Requests for comment from the FBI about whether terrorists are recruiting or trading resumes on the site have so far gone unanswered.