Internet firms reach deal on releasing info on gov't requests

Jan. 27, 2014 at 7:34 PM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 27 (UPI) -- Key Internet firms and the Obama administration have reached a deal concerning government requests for their customers' personal data, officials said Monday.

The tentative agreement reached last week with Facebook Inc., Microsoft Corp., Apple Inc., Google Inc., LinkedIn Corp. and Yahoo! Inc. would also apply to companies that weren't party to the negotiations, the officials told the Wall Street Journal. The deal still needs the OK of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge.

Concerns about the federal government's surveillance of its own citizens have spiked since June when former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden leaked documents revealing the extent to which the nation's intelligence operations reach.

The Journal said the deal seeks to balance the government's interest in keeping its espionage activities secret and the companies' interest in providing customers information about their role in government monitoring.

The Journal said under terms of the agreement, companies could give out ranges for the number of government demands for information for a given period, and how many customer accounts were affected.

The New York Times reported Monday U.S. intelligence-gathering efforts now include scanning users of smartphone game applications to obtain personal information about the players.

The Times said previously undisclosed classified British intelligence documents leaked by Snowden show the NSA and Britain's Government Communications Headquarters have cooperated increasingly in a "mobile surge" to collect and store data from dozens of smartphone apps such as "Angry Birds."

The Times said the scope the surveillance efforts' and the extent of their success are unclear.

President Obama announced this month his administration is moving to restrict the government's ability to spy on its citizens through the collection of so-called metadata gleamed from people's phone calls. But the Times said he did not address the issue of intelligence agencies monitoring such applications and other smartphone functions.

The newspaper said the leaked reports do not indicate whether the companies cooperate with the government agencies.

"NSA does not profile everyday Americans as it carries out its foreign intelligence mission," the agency said in a written response to the Times' questions about the program. "Because some data of U.S. persons may at times be incidentally collected in NSA's lawful foreign intelligence mission, privacy protections for U.S. persons exist across the entire process."

The NSA said similar protections exist for "innocent foreign citizens."

The Times said the British spy agency declined to comment on any specific program but said all its activities are lawful.

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