Google, Facebook, Yahoo File Petitions Calling For Greater U.S. Government Transparency

The tech companies have filed new petitions to publicly disclose the number of data requests they receive from U.S. government agencies related to national security.

Ahead of a meeting later today with the President’s Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies, several large tech companies, including Google, Yahoo, and Facebook, have filed separate petitions in the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. All request the right to publicly disclose the number of data requests they receive from U.S. government agencies related to national security.

The petitions echo sentiments expressed by the companies in July, when a group of for-profit tech companies, trade organizations, and not-for-profits such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, along with investors like Union Square Ventures and Y Combinator, banded together to publish a joint open letter to U.S. government officials under the "We Need to Know" coalition.

Currently, tech companies are allowed to disclose a range--though not an exact figure--of the total number of data requests they receive from U.S. government agencies. (These can often include requests for relevant information in criminal investigations.) But they are not allowed to disclose an exact number, or even a range, for how many of those requests pertain to national security.

From Yahoo's blog post:

The U.S. government’s recent decision to release aggregate annual data about its requests for phone call logs and Internet chats was an important first step in this direction. Granting our petition for greater transparency around national security requests for user data is a critical second step.

[Image: Flickr user dobrych]

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