Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and other big tech companies have won the right to reveal more details about the number of national security requests they receive from government agencies, seeking information about their customers.
The new disclosures will still come with plenty of restrictions. However, in conjunction with the decision, the companies agreed to drop their legal action over the issue.
The new rules were announced today by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and National Intelligence Director James Clapper — part of the changes announced by President Obama in his recent speech outlining planned reforms for intelligence gathering following repeated revelations about the NSA.
The new options, outlined in this letter, give the companies greater leeway to disclose information about National Security Letters and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act orders as part of their public reports about government requests for customer data. However, rather than providing the specific number, they must still present the data in “bands” of 250 or 1000, depending on which option they choose.
Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Yahoo and LinkedIn issued this statement on the decision:
“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.”