Tech companies can finally reveal how much of your information they give to the government

Giuseppe Macri Tech Editor
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The U.S. Department of Justice reached an agreement with Google, Facebook, Microsoft, LinkedIn, and Yahoo Monday to publicly reveal the amount of data they collect from consumers and in turn provide to the government.

The Associated Press reports other companies are expected to join in once the deal is approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which approves classified requests for information and surveillance tactics for federal agencies like the National Security Agency.

“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,” the companies said in a joint statement. “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.”

Silicon Valley’s tech giants have been petitioning the executive branch and Congress for permission to disclose their level of participation in government investigations since the leaks about various NSA surveillance programs by former contractor Edward Snowden began last summer. Some of the documents alleged that companies like Google and Microsoft gave the government “backdoor” access to the servers housing data on consumers — a claim which virtually every company implicated has since denied.

Until Monday, the government opposed such requests, citing concerns about the level of interference they could create for active investigations into national security threats.

“Permitting disclosure of this aggregate data addresses an important area of concern to communications providers and the public,” Attorney General Eric Holder and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said in a joint statement.

The reports will be “very general in terms,” and be delayed at least six months after fulfilling requests.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has given similar permission to communications and service providers following the Snowden leaks, allowing Verizon to publish its first “transparency report” about the information it provides to the government last week.

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