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Microsoft, Twitter, Google and Facebook reach agreement with NSA

In an agreement with the NSA, the tech giants Microsoft, Twitter, Google and Facebook all released data to authorities every six months as a result of secret court orders according to their disclosure for the first time on Monday, reports the Guardian.

As part of a transparency deal reached last week with the Justice Department, these four tech giants that participate in the National Security Agency’s Prism effort, which collects largely overseas internet communications, released more information about the volume of data the US demands they provide than they have ever previously been permitted to disclose.

This agreement was reached between the Dept. of Justice and the four tech giants as part of the agreement to withdraw the transparency lawsuit of the four before the so-called Fisa court that was brought by the companies.

But the terms of the deal prevent the companies from itemizing the collection, beyond bands of thousands of data requests served on them by a secret surveillance court. The companies must also delay by six months disclosing information on the most recent requests – terms the Justice Department put in the negotiation of the final agreement.

In order to disclose the transparency efforts, Google’s legal director for law enforcement and information security, Richard Salgado, stated in a post on the company’s official blog, ‘we still believe more transparency is needed so everyone can better understand how surveillance laws work and decide whether or not they serve the public interest.’

‘Specifically, we want to disclose the precise numbers and types of requests we receive, as well as the number of users they affect in a timely way,’ continued Salgado in the blog post.

In the most recent period for which data is available, January to June 2013 – a period ended by the beginning of Edward Snowden’s landmark surveillance disclosures – Google gave the government the internet metadata of up to 999 customer accounts, and the content of communications from between 9,000 and 9,999 customers.

Microsoft received fewer than 1,000 orders from the Fisa court for communications content during the same period, related to between 15,000 and 15,999 ‘accounts or individual identifiers.’

During the first six months of 2013 Yahoo disclosed between 30,000-39,999 accounts in Fisa court orders of less than 1000.

During the same time period Facebook disclosed that it turned over content data from between 5000 and 5999 accounts – a rise of about 1000 from the previous six month period – and LinkedIn, the professional networking service, disclosed on Monday that it received the same total of generic ‘national security requests.’

Last week Apple disclosed that between January 1 and June 30, 2013 it had received less than 250 national security orders – including national security letters and other requests – relating to less than 250 accounts.

Microsoft’s Smith opined that ‘despite the president's reform efforts and our ability to publish more information, there has not yet been any public commitment by either the US or other governments to renounce the attempted hacking of internet companies.’

‘We believe the constitution requires that our government seek information from American companies within the rule of law. We'll therefore continue to press for more on this point, in collaboration with others across our industry.’

To view other articles related to this topic of the NSA, surveillance and security for tech companies and customers, please see the articles listed below in Author's suggestions and view the video atop this article on the release of the tech giants agreement with the Dept. of Justice.

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