The NSA is using apps to spy.
Some of the biggest technology companies in the U.S. can reveal orders they received from the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. They reached an agreement with the Obama administration to tell their customers how many orders they received approximately from the surveillance court.
Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft and Yahoo! , and Apple filed a lawsuit to disclose how many court orders they receive related to surveillance. The companies have been eager to reveal the information since June. That was the same time that Edward Snowden released whistleblowing information about companies giving users’ personal data to the government.
A brief by the companies said,”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.”
The Obama administration also agreed that the information being released was good for transparency. Even though the administration initially thought revealing the data would help militants in other countries escape surveillance, now the attorney general and the tech companies have reached a truce. A joint statement by Attorney General Eric Holder and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said, “Permitting disclosure of this aggregate data addresses an important area of concern to communications providers and the public.”
Apple revealed that it received fewer than 250 demands related to national security. The company said that it was “infinitesimal relative to the hundreds of millions of accounts registered with Apple.” Other tech companies want to prove they are being transparent with customers and have little interaction with the government’s surveillance program.
Though tech companies can reveal surveillance orders, there are exceptions. The agreement only covers what the court gets directly from the companies, not from other countries. Also, the numbers companies can give are only ranges and estimates, not specific numbers. Many Americans have expressed disapproval of the Obama Administration’s and NSA’s collection of persanl data through tech giants like Verizon.
Obama has promised more transparency from the NSA and surveillance courts in the aftermath of the Snowden scandal. Tech companies are feeling the ” Snowden effect” as well. International companies have cancelled contracts with Google because Snowden said cloud computing services are accessed by the NSA. Tech companies want to show that they are free of the government’s intrusive surveillance to assuage users’ concerns about civil liberties in America and around the world.