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Apple, Google, others seek to disclose more details on data snooping

Dozens of tech players and other organizations have asked Washington to allow them to reveal more information about the requests for user data.


The tech industry wants to come clean -- or at least cleaner -- about its role in providing user data to the government and is asking the feds for permission to do so.

In a letter sent Thursday to the White House and Congress, dozens of organizations involved in or concerned about the National Security Agency data-snopping controversy made their requests, Reuters reported. Companies want to be able to regularly provide statistics on the number and scope of user data records ordered by the government. They also want to be allowed to disclose the number of people, accounts, or devices targeted in those requests.

On Wednesday, AllThingsD obtained a copy of the letter with the request:

"Basic information about how the government uses its various law enforcement-related investigative authorities has been published for years without any apparent disruption to criminal investigations," the letter reads. "We seek permission for the same information to be made available regarding the government's national security-related authorities."

Apple, Google, and Facebook are among the tech players that signed the letter. Other organizations that have joined the effort include Human Rights Watch, Electronic Frontier Foundation, American Civil Liberties Union, Americans for Tax Reform, and FreedomWorks.

The government, at least as voiced by NSA head Keith Alexander, seems open to the idea as long as it doesn't jeopardize investigations, Reuters added.

"We just want to make sure we do it right, that we don't impact anything ongoing with the FBI," Alexander told the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado. "I think that's the reasonable approach."

Alexander also stressed that the companies had no choice in handing over user data to the government as they were compelled by court order to do so. As such, the companies want to offer more specifics on the type of data they were forced to provide.

"From my perspective, what they want is the rest of the world to know that we're not reading all of that email, so they want to give out the numbers," Alexander said, according to Reuters. "I think there's some logic in doing that."