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Microsoft, Google, Facebook to Unveil Information About Gov't Secret Data Requests

( [email protected] ) Feb 05, 2014 04:27 AM EST
The Obama administration states that it will let Internet companies to offer customers a better suggestion of how frequently the government requires their details, but will not let companies to divulge how much or what is being collected.
National Security Agency

The Obama administration states that it will let Internet companies to offer customers a better suggestion of how frequently the government requires their details, but will not let companies to divulge how much or what is being collected.

The move corresponds to a humble victory for Microsoft, Google  and other technology companies that undertook a legal battle for the right to reveal more information about their responsibilities under government surveillance programs, a susceptible issue in the consequences of leaks last year by Edward Snowden, previous National Security Agency contractor.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and James R. Clapper, director of national intelligence, said the new declassification rules were driven by President Obama's speech on intelligence reform prior this month.

"Permitting disclosure of this aggregate data addresses an important area of concern to communications providers and the public," Mr. Holder and Mr. Clapper said in a joint statement.

The government's wholesale seizure of details was unveiled last year by past NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who took millions of sheets of documents regarding the data programs and ran off the country.

On Monday, the companies, cautious of the effect the Snowden revelations have had for their reliability, offered a joint statement.

"We filed our lawsuits because we believe that the public has a right to know about the volume and types of national security requests we receive. We're pleased the Department of Justice has agreed that we and other providers can disclose this information. While this is a very positive step, we'll continue to encourage Congress to take additional steps to address all of the reforms we believe are needed," the statement reads.

CNN said that Justice Department, lawyers from the tech companies, and intelligence agencies gathered at the White House earlier than the speech, and Deputy Attorney General James Cole and David O'Neil, the chief of staff, proposed the compromise.

Before the speech, details of the agreement were established Thursday and Friday.

The new agreement focuses on the government's examination of Internet traffic and doesn't concern to the metadata collection program that has infuriated so many. Nevertheless, it seems to settle tech companies' want to distribute more information and the government's demand to keep some level of confidentiality. 

The number of national security letters - a common tool of the FBI - that a company has collected could be accounted as between zero and 999, for an instance. Companies will also be able to reveal, in similarly broad ranges, how many customer accounts are aimed. Under the new rules, such information can be noted, once every six months.

The same policies will be relevant to requests from the FISC. In addition, companies will also have the selection of lumping the two kinds of data requests collectively in a single total. According to the Justice Department, if they do so, the numeric range can be smaller, such as between zero and 249.

This month President Obama announced surveillance reforms following indignation at home and abroad over disclosures by Edward Snowden, who has taken refuge in Russia.