Government caves, strikes deal to let tech companies disclose data requests

Government caves, strikes deal to let tech companies disclose data requests

The US Department of Justice has announced a deal with major tech companies that will allow the companies to reveal previously secret information about the numbers of requests for data they receive from the government.

The numbers these companies will now be able to disclose include requests made under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) as well as national security letters from the government.

These requests will reportedly need to be revealed in groups of 250 or 1,000, and there will be a two-year window for companies receiving requests for the first time or companies that have received requests before receiving new types of requests, during which they cannot be disclosed.

Despite those restrictions, apparently designed to give the government and law enforcement time to act on information before their requests are revealed, this is a major step up from the current situation.

Thanks Obama!

In an amusing reversal of the "Thanks Obama" meme, which humorously blames Obama for things the president has nothing to do with, it seems his plan for NSA reform actually is to blame for this.

That’s at least according to Attorney General Eric Holder, who announced the deal.

The DoJ document mentions Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Yahoo, and LinkedIn, and Apple is reportedly involved as well. But it seems this applies to all tech companies who receive government data requests, not just those involved.

Google has been fighting the FISA gag order since as early as summer 2013, and late last year it said that government requests related to user information had doubled in three years.

Yahoo, Apple and Microsoft also joined in on the fight in 2013.

Shut it down

Apple has responded to this announcement already, issuing a document titled "Update on National Security and Law Enforcement Orders" in which it discloses that it has received fewer than 250 government requests for user data related to fewer than 250 user accounts.

Attorney General Holder’s announcement also touched on the NSA’s bulk data collection programs like PRISM and Dishfire.

He said some of these programs have already been shut down, and any remaining ones may be subject to transparency reports in the future.

  • Not even Google Maps, Angry Birds are safe from NSA and GCHQ spying