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U.S. gov't reaches deal with Internet giants over online data disclosure

The U.S. 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 U.S. National Security Agency (NSA).

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

Obama has also directed Holder and the intelligence community to develop options for a new approach to domestic phone surveillance without the government holding the metadata and report back to him before March 28.

In the weeks ahead, "additional steps must be taken in order to fully implement the reforms directed by the President," said the Justice Department.

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 U.S. intelligence surveillance rather than fundamentally changing the surveillance practices, said Benjamin Witts, a senior fellow with Brookings Institution.

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

[Source: Xinhua, Washington, 27Jan14]

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small logoThis document has been published on 30Jan14 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.