The Justice Department and the Director of National Intelligence reached a settlement yesterday to allow five U.S. Internet companies to report the number of national security records requests they’ve received from the government.
“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. Through these new reporting methods, communications providers will be permitted to disclose more information than ever before to their customers,” according to a joint statement issued by Attorney General Eric Holder and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. “Permitting disclosure of this aggregate data resolves an important area of concern to communications providers and the public.”
The agreement was reached 10 days after President Barack Obama announced reforms to the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs, including increasing transparency, oversight, and strengthening safeguards to protect the privacy of U.S. person.
Read more: Google: U.S. government requests for user information grew threefold in 3 years
The new policy would allow Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook, and LinkedIn to publish the number of customer records requests issued under the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act (FISA) or National Security Letters (NSL).
Previously, communications providers were allowed to only report the total number of the government requests for users’ informations, the kinds of requests issued such as subpoenas, warrants, court orders, pen register orders, emergency disclosure requests, but they were not allowed to share the number of FISA or NSL requests they’ve received.
Now, the providers may report additional details of government records requests, such as:
- Number of records requested through the criminal process without restrictions;
- Number of National Security Letters (NSL) received and the number of customer accounts affected by NSLs, rounded to the nearest thousand;
- Number of FISA court orders for content and the number of customer selectors targeted, rounded to the nearest thousand;
- Number of FISA court orders for non-content records and the number of customer accounts targeted, rounded to the nearest thousand;
The providers will be allowed to publish FISA and NSL numbers every 6 months; however, the FISA information authorized for publication will be delayed by 6 months.
Furthermore, the government will impose a two-year delay for “New Capability Order” or information on records requests for any new “platform, product, service” because “disclosing it would reveal that the platform, product, or service is subject to previously undisclosed collection through FISA orders.”