Government Reaches Data Disclosure Agreement with Tech Companies

by Istvan Fekete on January 28, 2014

The revelation about government spying by ex-NSA (National Security Agency) contractor Edward Snowden caused a worldwide uproar and also triggered ongoing negotiation between the US government and technology companies. The latter are trying to save their businesses, which – they say – were way too heavily affected in terms of their customers beginning to lose faith in their commitment to privacy. And the first results are in: although this doesn’t change a thing as regards the NSA’s spying habits, the lobby has resulted in more specific data disclosure to customers.

Under the new pact between the Obama administration and tech companies such as Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, LinkedIn, and others, companies are allowed to disclose more aggregate information to the public about the demands they receive from the government and how often the government monitors Internet use, a move that aims to ease public distrust and corporate complaints about snooping, reports the Wall Street Journal.

There is one noteworthy catch though: the numbers would be released in broad ranges, and the agreement doesn’t give the companies ways to block demand they view as intrusive.

Apple was first to update its November 5, 2013 report on government requests for information, specifying the number of requests the company received between January 1 and June 30, 2013.

The biggest change under the new agreement is that companies can disclose how many court orders they receive from the Foreign Surveillance Court, and can give out information about National Security Letters (NSLs) they receive from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. NSLs do not require a court order, but companies must honour the request under current law if they have the information requested – this practically confirms what Edward Snowden stated earlier.

The disclosure is important because tech companies said the government spying revelations are hurting their business, not just among American consumers, but overseas as well.

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Written by: Istvan Fekete. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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