Tech companies, civil liberties groups pressure U.S. government over surveillance
Tech giants and civil liberties groups want the U.S. government to relax the secrecy surrounding its requests for user information.
Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook and Reddit are among the technology companies that are signatories on a letter sent to the government Thursday, demanding that they be allowed to release information requested by the government under so-called National Security Letters.
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The American Civil Libierties Union and the Electronic Frontiers Foundation also signed the letter.

While companies do report their compliance with government requests, the surveillance requests are aggregated with other, non-criminal compliance requests.

“As an initial step, we request that the Department of Justice, on behalf of the relevant executive branch agencies, agree that Internet, telephone, and web-based service providers may publish specific numbers regarding government requests authorized under specific national security authorities, including the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and the NSL statutes,” the letter reads in part.

“This information about how and how often the government is using these legal authorities is important to the American people, who are entitled to have an informed public debate about the appropriateness of those authorities and their use, and to international users of US-based service providers who are concerned about the privacy and security of their communications.”

Online government surveillance has be under scrutiny since the May release of documents revealing a widespread program of telephone and online surveillance by the National Security Administration. The former contractor who leaked the documents is seeking asylum in Russia.

Read the letter here.