Internet firms can disclose more on government requests for data

WASHINGTON — Internet companies will be allowed to disclose more information about how often they are required to turn over customer data to the government as part of an agreement announced Monday by the Justice Department.

The rules, outlined in a letter to executives representing Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and LinkedIn and filed along with a notice to the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, lifts a prohibition that had gagged technology companies from disclosing information about the government's surveillance requests.

"The administration is acting to allow more detailed disclosures about the number of national security orders and requests issued to communications providers, the number of customer accounts targeted under those orders… and the underlying legal authorities,'' Attorney General Eric Holder and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said in a joint statement.

"This is a victory for transparency and a critical step toward reining in excessive government surveillance," said Alex Abdo, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union's National Security Project.

"Companies must be allowed to report basic information about what they're giving the government so that Americans can decide for themselves whether the National Security Agency's spying has gone too far. It is commendable that the companies pressed the government for more openness, but even more is needed."


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