Transparency deal fails to meet all surveillance demands

Tech firms win greater transparency on government data requests, but no reductions in how much is collected

Technology firms have won the right to reveal more details about government data requests under an agreement with the US Department of Justice (DoJ).

But the deal stops short of committing to curb the amount of user data collected by US spy agencies.

The move comes a week after President Barack Obama’s proposed reforms regarding the US National Security Agency’s controversial mass collection of US phone data.

The agreement also follows months of campaigning by technology firms keen to distance themselves from the NSA’s Prism programme of mass internet surveillance.

Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Facebook and LinkedIn formed a coalition called Reform Government Surveillance to pressure the US government to allow greater transparency on data requests.

Although most top US technology firms have responded to allegations of links to Prism by publishing transparency reports, they have until now been barred from disclosing details of NSA data requests.

In terms of the agreement, the disclosures are to be nonspecific, listed by the thousand and subject in some cases to a six-month delay, according to the Guardian.

This indicates the large quantities of data that the US government plans on collecting from its technology partners, the paper said.

But in order to be more specific about the amount of data turned over, the companies must be less specific about the type of data it is.

The deal also allows for a delay of up to two years before revealing information on data collected under surveillance programmes the NSA may yet develop.

However, the deal claims to shed more light on the number of people affected by NSA surveillance.

The DoJ said the transparency deal also applies to phone companies that turn over the records of every phone call made in the US.

“The administration is acting to allow more detailed disclosures about the number of national security orders and requests issued to communications providers, the number of customer accounts targeted under those orders and requests, and the underlying legal authorities,” attorney general Eric Holder and director of national intelligence James Clapper said in a statement.

While the technology firms have won the battle for greater transparency, they will have to fight on to bring reforms that will reduce the amount of data collected by US surveillance operations.

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