Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) were the two companies that seemed to be the most complicit with the National Security Agency’s PRISM surveillance program – you know, the one that was revealed by whistleblower and international fugitive Edward Snowden – at least when you consider the tepid non-denial denials the companies revealed in the days following the release of the details of the top-secret online snooping program.
While Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) are likely going to be the primary targets, a couple of France-based human-rights groups are leaving the possibility open that other companies and perhaps several U.S. government agencies, will be party to lawsuits the groups intend to file in court alleging privacy violations of French citizens and violations of human rights – most notably, individual privacy, as a result of the NSA program. The International Federation of Human Rights and the French League of Human Rights released statements Thursday indicating their intentions to file a “complaint against X” lawsuit in French court.
A “complaint against X” lawsuit gives a lot of latitude as to the scope of the investigation and the numbers of companies and U.S. agencies that could be involved in this suit. There were nine companies mentioned in the initial PRISM surveillance program, with Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG), Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT), Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) being the most noteworthy names.
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In a statement, the human-rights firms wrote, “This uncontrolled intrusion into people’s lives is a significant threat to individual liberties and must be curbed at the risk of seeing the rule of law disappear. So the FIDH and LDH have asked a French court to open a judicial investigation into these matters.”
These groups are approaching this lawsuit as the best opportunity to get clarity as to the scope and depth of the PRISM program and how French citizens were ensnared in this program, which was designed to help the U.S. combat terrorism and organized crime. Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) were the two companies that seemed to give indications that they had at least some prior knowledge of the program, while the other U.S. companies adamantly denied knowledge and maintained that the NSA did not have any “back-door” access to servers.
Why is this such a big deal for the French?