U.S., tech companies reach deal on spying data - Justice Dept

WASHINGTON Tue Jan 28, 2014 5:20am IST

An illustration picture shows a projection of binary code around the shadow of a man holding a laptop computer in an office in Warsaw June 24, 2013. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/Files

An illustration picture shows a projection of binary code around the shadow of a man holding a laptop computer in an office in Warsaw June 24, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Kacper Pempel/Files

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration and major U.S. technology companies have struck a deal that would allow the companies to tell the public in greater detail about the spying-related court orders they receive, the Justice Department said on Monday.

The agreement, filed in the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, would settle demands from companies such as Google Inc (GOOG.O) and Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) for more leeway to disclose data about the court orders, according to documents released by the department.

Tech companies have sought to clarify their relationships with U.S. law enforcement and spying agencies since June, when leaks to the news media by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden began to show the depth of U.S. spying capabilities.

President Barack Obama's administration, however, has been wary of disclosing data it believes might help suspected militants in other countries avoid surveillance.

The agreement would apply to all companies and would give them new options of how to present information.

A company that offers email services, for example, would be able to say it received between zero and 999 orders from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court during a six-month period for email content belonging to someone outside the United States.

There would be exceptions, though. If a company introduced a new communications platform, it would need to wait two years before telling the public about a court order for information about that platform.

"Permitting disclosure of this aggregate data addresses an important area of concern to communications providers and the public," Attorney General Eric Holder and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said in a joint statement.

(Editing by Howard Goller, Andre Grenon and David Gregorio)

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