THE SURVEILLANCE OBSESSED US government has grudgingly made a slight concession and will let the country's tech firms reveal more missing pieces of the peeking puzzle.
A joint statement by US Attorney General Eric Holder and the director of National Intelligence James Clapper said that the decision to allow more disclosures follows President Obama's recent speech and a government study of its snooping practices.
"As indicated in the Justice Department's filing with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, 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," they wrote.
"Through these new reporting methods, communications providers will be permitted to disclose more information than ever before to their customers."
Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo and Linkedin had petitioned through the courts for this right, and it should lead to more detailed transparency reports from them.
"This action was directed by the president earlier this month in his speech on intelligence reforms. While this aggregate data was properly classified until today, the office of the director of national intelligence, in consultation with other departments and agencies, has determined that the public interest in disclosing this information now outweighs the national security concerns that required its classification," added the statement.
"Permitting disclosure of this aggregate data addresses an important area of concern to communications providers and the public."
The tech firms that repeatedly pushed for permission to expand their disclosure of government surveillance requests are glad.
"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," they said in a joint statement.
"We're pleased the Department of Justice has agreed that we and other providers can disclose this information. 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." µ