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Internet giants to disclose more on NSA requests

By Agencies in Washington | China Daily | Updated: 2014-01-29 08:08

The US government has reached an agreement with leading Internet companies that would allow them to reveal more details about online data collected by government agencies.

The deal marked the latest move aimed at easing public distrust of the controversial surveillance programs of the US National Security Agency.

The agreement would allow Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft and Yahoo to disclose more aggregate information about how many information requests they received from the government and how many customer accounts had been affected under the NSA's mass surveillance programs, the US Justice Department said on Monday.

"The administration is acting to allow more detailed disclosures about the number of national security orders and requests issued to communications providers, and the number of customer accounts targeted under those orders and requests including the underlying legal authorities," US Attorney General Eric Holder and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said in a joint statement.

"Permitting disclosure of this aggregate data resolves an important area of concern to communications providers and the public," they added.

The five companies welcomed the deal, but said more needs to be done. "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," the companies said in a joint statement. "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."

The agreement came after US President Barack Obama offered a series of changes to the NSA's controversial surveillance programs about a week ago, as the leaks about US government spying by former defense contractor Edward Snowden continued to spark controversy and furor at home and abroad.

However, some experts said the surveillance program reforms did not go far enough. The president's emphasis is much more on strengthening transparency and oversight over US intelligence surveillance rather than fundamentally changing the surveillance practices, said Benjamin Witts, a senior fellow with the Brookings Institution.

Studies also find US companies stand to lose billions of dollars over spying activities due to doubts over whether they can protect the security of data on their systems.

Xinhua - AP


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